Daily App Review: Clear (iPhone And iPod touch)
Once in a while there comes along an app that some dismiss as being not useful enough, but which still gets downloaded by the thousands because the little it does, it does differently and very elegantly indeed. Clear, a simple to-do app for the iPhone, is a prime example of this.
You would have thought that an app that does not incorporate dates or have any alarms or other indicators to let you know when to do a task would be a non-starter, especially when it comes for a price ($1.99), when users have far more versatile alternatives available like Remember The Milk for free.
So what is so great about Clear? Well, we tried it out on our iPhone 4S and were struck by the sheer simplicity of using the app. The interface is totally gesture-based and very reminiscent of times of Windows Phone. You are greeted with a tiled interface and from there can create lists of tasks. And that's about it. No cloud integration, no reminders. And in what seems to be a leaf taken out of Twitter, Clear insists that you outline your task and your list names in no more than 28 characters--that is the maximum you can type in a field in this app. Seems frightfully restrictive, especially when you consider that there are no date or time fields in the app.
But it is the actual process of making the lists and tasks that is the charm of the app. There are three levels--one which is the foundation of the app, letting you access lists, settings, themes and the like; the second which shows you the lists you have made; and the third which shows you the tasks you have placed in these lists. To move into a level, you just tap on the item selected in it, to move out of a level, you just pinch your fingers together on the screen. To create a new item in the list or a new list, you just tap on the screen. To delete an item, you place your finger on the tile on which it is written and slide your finger to the right. To indicate a task is done you place your finger similarly, but now slide your finger to the left. You can choose the colour of the tiles and rearrange the tasks depending on their importance--the ones on the top will be coloured more deeply, and the colour will keep getting lighter as you go down. And there are delightful chimes of music that accompany the gestures you make.
It is this constant waving of the fingers and the fact that you do not have to go through multiple levels to find out what needs to be done that makes Clear special. The interface is spartan and very easy to understand, simply because there is so little to do, and the character restriction actually forces you to be concise, which is not really a bad thing (the Twitter effect). And in a very neat touch, you actually get quotes from famous people about the importance of working when you first enter a task in a list.
Yes, it is a triumph of style over substance. Yes, there are apps that do more. But what cannot be argued is the fact that Clear brings a simplicity to the task of managing a to-do list that other apps fail to do. In that, it reminds us just a bit of the the first iPhone, which did far lesser than most other smartphones in the market but was far simpler (and fun) to use.
We are not going to recommend you download Clear if you are hardcore task list user and wish to manage your tasks better and in a more effective manner. But if you are relatively new to the word of task listing and wish to do so with minimum fuss, you would be hard pressed to find a better app. Available from iTunes App StorePrice: $1.99