The one-handed rotary task manager for iPhone
I was compiling a list of simple productivity apps, mainly To-Do lists and GTD managers, when I came across this beast of its own. Most of the reminders apps present you with a list of the tasks or activities you need to complete as a basic starting point. Then, every developer structures that information in different ways: tags, calendar entries, due dates, projects or groups. I haven't seen anything like this before.
Although there are some interesting efforts to remove traditional navigation elements in apps like Clear by Realmac Software, this is the first time I've come across a new paradigm this radical. If your excuse the pun, someone trying to reinvent the wheel.
Sooner by SMS Services is a simple task manager that aims to help you organise yourself with some unusual user interface and playful ways of interacting with data. To give you a clear idea of what you have on the table, Sooner relies on a spinning wheel to show you everything from tasks inside groups, calendar preview and even adding new entries.
The concept of the spinning wheel is present everywhere. It manages to pull it off in some areas although sometimes if feels forced. Let's begin with the main screen you see when yo launch the app. A white dial with brightly coloured edges displays groups of projects separating them in segments. This would remind you of the wedges in Trivial Pursuit, sort of.
Nowhere to hide
Using a disc to display has its advantages. It has been designed to be used with one hand — your left one actually. To add a new entry simply drag the plus sign that happens to sit under your left hand thumb onto any segment. Depending on the location you drag it, close or far from the outer rim, the app will assign a priority to it compared to the rest on that segment. In the calendar view, this tap and dragging motion works beautifully, allowing you select not only date but also time. As you drop the new entry sign up of down, Sooner will rearrange the time and date accordingly.
The wheel is always the immediate thing you see although there are more traditional ways to interact with it. Tapping on a specific group or date opens a familiar list view. Here you can rearrange items up and down again, tapping and holding. This is the type of behaviour I've grown accustomed thanks to Apple's own Reminders. Swiping to the right on a task will mark it as complete rather than triggering the usual delete button. Tapping on an entry will open the edit mode and not checkmark it as done. There are some unconventional behaviours that will take some time to adapt to.
A workflow with its challenges
The developer is selling Sooner encouraging users to jot down all the information to arrange it later. This is a basic of Getting Things Done but I feel the app's strength is in giving you an overview of your week or your projects. In fact, adding new items in list requires you to drag to the middle of the screen the plus sign. This requires more effort than alternatives such as Things and The Hit List, definitely more focused on quick data entry.
Sooner comes with nice little touches you would come to expect. The app uses push alerts to remind you of upcoming deadlines, support for recurring tasks and native iCal synchronisation.
Overall, I'm really excited seeing new ideas in the usually uninspired productivity scene. Sooner draws attention with its colourful graphics, pixel-perfect implementation and a huge set of gestures and interactivity there for you to explore. I love the fact this idea could only work on a touch screen device. Sooner has been designed to get the best of the small multitouch display providing key information in a matter of seconds.
The playful nature of Sooner has also its drawbacks, mainly the amount of learning and getting used to a completely new paradigm you haven't seen before. Convertbot by Tapbots is the closer I remember to wheel interaction. I also feel the app suffers a bit with some heavyweight duties and the lack of cloud sync or ability to talk to other platforms.
For those who are tired of conventional to-do lists, Sooner offers a distinctive way of organising your tasks. The timing and responsiveness of of the gestures are all there. This is an experience you want to try for yourself.
Top Trivial picture by Steve Berry