These are the next four apps in my ongoing overview of the iPhone apps that I currently find most useful. This time it is my to-do task manager, my weather app and my two primary content consumption apps.
AnyDo allows you to append all of the expected meta data to your tasks: assigning priority dates, sorting tasks into folders etc. These functions are accessible, but not displayed by default. So I force myself to use it as one simple list. I am actively breaking old procrastination habits of tinkering with classification and sub-classes and aiming to concentrate more on actually getting things done. This app does just enough and no more, which is why it works best for me.
In common with other recent apps like Clear, the creators of this app have deeply considered how we actually interact with our iPhones. They have designed for the various ways that we stroke the screens and they have thought about how our fingers can operate the device without resorting to simulating mechanical artifacts like buttons. Solar is a future-facing app in part because the complete front face of the iPhone simultaneously serves as both the information-conveying surface and as the input interface. It delivers a novel experiential sense of ‘data that I can touch’ and ‘data that I can directly manipulate’. To me this starts to deliver on Steve Job’s ideal whereby the hardware effectively disappears and the software becomes the device. This points the way to myriad other potential apps that answer the question of how little visible UI do you need. (It is also the first app that really has me wondering what the experience of a haptic feedback enabled iPhone would be like.)
Finally, wearing my designer hat for a moment, the elegance of the typographic choices the creators have made further reinforce the sense that all aspects of Solar have been thoroughly considered.
While the app has constantly been refined and polished over the years, the greater improvement in utility has come from the expansion of its ecosystem. As more and more apps add support for Instapaper I now have many more useful ways of adding articles into my reading list. Indeed my only real problem with this app is keeping on top of the ever-increasing list of interesting reading material that I am constantly building up. (See my post on Managing The Deferral Engine.)
I have spent significant time trying many of this year’s parade of news aggregation apps, including Wavii, Flipboard, Pulse and Prismatic, each of which approach the opportunities within this space from different angles. None of them have yet succeeded in graduating to long-term habitual use. Certainly none have even come close to dislodging Reeder as my primary news input app.
The first four apps I wrote about were Downcast, Drafts, Sparrow and Launch Center Pro.