Pygmy Reviews #41 – iOS Apps

Ecoute ($2.99)

One Line Description: An alternative to the built-in music player on iOS

The stock Music app for iOS has some shortcomings. Biggest of which is that it completely lacks any sort of easy queueing ability to set the next song and build a playlist on the fly. Apple added this in iTunes 11 in 2012, but it’s still missing from iOS. Perhaps iOS 8 rectifies this, but at the moment Ecoute seems like the only alternative.

It’s a very nice looking app, and it’s now playing screen is particularly pretty. But the feature that draws people in is quite flawed. First when attempting to play a single song from the all songs list, every song that comes after alphabetically is added to the playlist. It’s unclear why anyone would want this behavior as opposed to just playing one song and stopping. Holding on a track name reveals several buttons including “Play Next” and “Add Up Next”. Presumably “Play Next” would play the song immediately following whatever song is currently playing. And “Add Up Next” would add the song to the end of the queue. Neither of these functions seems to consistently work as advertised. It’s possible that the way all songs after the current one in the list get added when starting the first song somehow breaks it, but who knows? The developer’s responses on Twitter mostly seem to fall under the header “it’s working right for me”, so it doesn’t seem like this will be fixed any time soon. As a result, this app is too frustrating to be worth $3. Hopefully Apple adds this in iOS 8.

Launch Center Pro for iPad ($7.99)

One Line Description: It’s like speeddial for all kinds of functions in iOS.

Likely too rich for most people’s blood, Launch Center Pro for iPhone has because a crucial daily workflow component. The ability to add shortcuts to all sorts of apps and functions clears the home screen up a bit and makes certain tasks so much easier. For example, instead of opening the Messages app, possibly navigating back to the list and then searching for the person to text, Launch Center Pro (LCP) allows the user to add a shortcut to call or text directly in it’s interface. This is a much better option than Apple’s Favorites in the Phone app.

It also users the built-in URL schemes that many apps utilize to make functionality quicker. For example, it can be used to launch 1Password but prompt you for search teams in the same click as launching it, which means it saves a step along the way. It is obviously limited to what apps support the x-callback-url property, but that list seems to grow by the day.

This is clearly a “power users” type of app, and is priced accordingly, but it’s a pretty, well-made piece of software that gets a lot right. One wish list item would be some sort of T9 dialer to make it possible to search or call a number from one single interface.

CameraSync ($2.99)

One Line Description: Sync all photos from iOS with one click.

One of the most annoying aspects of iOS is getting photos from an iPhone to a Mac. Sure most people don’t really do this anymore, and those that do use another app in between like Photostream or Flickr or Instagram. But there are still some who want to take pictures and not have them go out to the web. Especially people who take high volumes of pictures. Enter CameraSync, a borderline “power users” app that does one thing. Upon launch it syncs all new photos from iOS to a remote device of some sort.

The “power user” aspect of this is that the remote devices are limited to Dropbox, Skydrive, Flickr, WebDAV, FTP, Amazon S3 or Box.net. Some of those are simple, others are a bit more complicated1. It has just the right amount of customization too. It can prevent screenshots, videos, and even specific albums can be chosen. Background sync can be enabled so that it’s effortless, Wi-Fi only is an option and reminders can even be set.

This is a really great alternative to Photostream and helps improve the photo archiving workflow.

Puzzle Craft (Free)

One Line Description: A combination of Hay Day style farm building with a puzzle twist.

There are many of these farm/city building “grind it out” games out there. Hay Day and We Rule come to mind. This game is similar to those in the sense that there are building to build and levels to get to, but there is a small wrinkle that makes this one different. Instead of just waiting around, resources are gathered by playing a puzzle matching game like Bejeweled. This is a nice change of pace from the other games where all you do is wait to click a a button and then wait some more. There is a limit early on to how often you can play the games but as you start to level up there is more than enough resources to play some multi-hour sessions if desired.

Because there are only two puzzle games though, and because building new buildings is not very exciting at all, this game does get a little old. Building products is about matching items and it can feel more grindy even than collecting from the fields in Hay Day. This game is extremely fun for a brief period of time, but once it gets old there is nothing to save it.

  1. I personally use WebDAV to a server on my local network just because it’s completely under my control []