During the course of WWDC, I had the distinct privilege of dabbling with a number of forthcoming apps for iOS. Perhaps the most interesting of the selection was Launch Center Pro by App Cubby.
Having historically struggled with my use-case scenario for Launch Center, I had plenty of hesitancies toward the prospect of Launch Center Pro. Considering the sandboxed nature of iOS, the ever-changing landscape of app URL accessibility, and Apple’s evident apprehension toward such projects, Launch Center Pro was initially of only distant interest to me. After years of iOS usage, my perception and understanding of the nuances of iOS have evolved into a veritably granular vision — my productivity within iOS limited only by the pace at which I can swipe and tap. Thus, from such a well-entrenched stance, how could an app middleman possibly redefine the paradigm with which I use my iPhone?
The process of re-education began unceremoniously at dinner during the first night of my stay in San Francisco. Sitting next to Shawn Blanc, I innocuously inquired as to how his son — Noah — was getting on. As Shawn spoke, he reached for his iPhone, tapped an unfamiliar icon, made a quick gesture, and abruptly turned the display to show a photograph of Noah taken earlier that day. For all of the bluster surrounding the original Launch Center, I was all-too-cognizant that such pace was heretofore unattainable via the app. Moreover, the original Launch Center had certainly not achieved such a level of deep-seated utility within the workflow of a great many people.
In this fleeting moment of careless ease, Launch Center Pro fluttered into my consciousness, demonstrated its effortless strength, and quickly removed itself from sight.
Throughout the week, Launch Center Pro transitioned from an intriguingly alien notion into an extraordinarily competent element of my iOS experience. Indeed, within mere minutes of receiving an early copy of the app last week, the app promptly and unceremoniously became the agent through which a great many tasks could be accomplished.
Due to the minimalistic approach, the experiential element of Launch Center Pro is difficult to quantify. When working to open an app or task, the subdued backdrop of the app fades away in favor of the well-designed iconography available for various tasks. Grouped tasks operate in a gestural fashion, allowing you to swipe your way into a pre-written text message, phone call, or Camera+ photograph. The experience in day-to-day use is characterized by a distinct sense of polite quiet. Just as a stereotypical butler speaks only when spoken to, Launch Center Pro seeks to accomplish an analogous experience for the end-user. Considering the primary goal of the app, such an interface is endlessly affable, despite its rapid eagerness to remove itself from your working hands.
The sole moment in which interaction is warranted is presented via the customization portion of the app. When looking to rearrange, redefine, and establish your own personal footprint upon the grid, the colorless backdrop is substituted for a delightful blueprint effect through which alterations can be comfortably, naturally, and expressively made. Therein lies the true novelty of the app, insofar as App Cubby has competently found a manner in which both quiet productivity and delightful aesthetics may co-exist in a non-intrusive or disruptive manner.
In essence, Launch Center Pro is experientially precisely what it so sorely needs to be, and what so many competitors have spectacularly failed to comprehend.
Launch Center Pro’s achievement, therefore, lies in the successful translation of the OS X keyboard- driven Spotlight alternative (e.g., LaunchBar, Quicksilver, Alfred) to the sandboxed world of iOS. Leaps and bounds more powerful than iOS Spotlight, characterized by a true sense of deft speed and competency, and sporting a delightful design, Launch Center Pro simply resides within the bounds of logical, attractive, and powerful interactions. Considering the outset goal of the app, it is fair to deem Launch Center Pro a resounding success at its primary directives.
As an aside, given the timing of the app’s launch, it’s worth giving a proverbial nod toward the recent announcement and beta availability of iOS 6. Considering the well-documented nature of excessive expectations in the Apple community, it is painfully clear that a great many onlookers believed Apple would offer some sort of significant OS overhaul with the latest update. Regardless of the logic (or lack thereof) inherent within such a perception, Launch Center Pro serves as a resounding and important reminder of precisely why Apple would not move in such a direction.
Simply put, Launch Center Pro’s capabilities streamline and improve upon the iOS productivity experience in a great many ways. Preying upon entrenched interface paradigms (e.g., the grid view) and translating the experience into one built for speed and accessibility, Launch Center Pro demonstrates that iOS has certainly not reached its logical interface conclusion. That, in fact, the solidarity of Apple’s backbone design has facilitated an environment in which rich, powerful, and novel apps may seek to re-define and complement the pre-existing iOS interactive paradigm. In this arena, Launch Center Pro’s approach is of extraordinary and unquestionable value.
Thus, for all of this, the takeaway message is simply as follows: buy Launch Center Pro. Whether you consider yourself a power user or even someone only loosely interested in productivity, Launch Center Pro’s individuality warrants a close look, and a great deal of delightful experimentation. Available for only $2.99 (for a limited time), Launch Center Pro is utterly deserving of your attention.
Launch Center Pro is available for $2.99 from the App Store.