A new iOS application called Launcher is taking advantage of iOS 8’s expanded feature set in a unique way. With the updated version of Apple’s mobile operating system, developers can now create interactive widgets that sit in iOS 8’s Notifications Center. But currently, most apps that have rolled out widget support are offering support for their own applications alone. Launcher is different – it lets you create one-touch shortcuts to a variety of apps and common actions, like placing a phone call, sending a text, viewing a website and more.
We first got a taste of an app like this at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014’s hackathon earlier this month, when a team created a prototype app called Blitz, which is similar to Launcher.
But Blitz was built in a weekend, and still needs further work before it would be ready for the App Store, of course.
Launcher, meanwhile, has been in development for couple of months prior to iOS 8’s release.
The idea is to offer a customizable widget where you can create shortcuts to your most-used applications and the other sorts of things you have to do on a regular basis (e.g., call your significant other, post a tweet, drive home, etc.). After you install the app, you’re prompted to customize the apps and actions the widget contains through a simple configuration screen. Here you can configure shortcuts for calling, messaging, emailing or FaceTiming your favorite contacts, plus shortcuts for directions to your most frequented routes, shortcuts for regularly viewed websites, and more.
Launcher also connects with a number of applications, allowing you to add shortcuts for anything you have installed on your phone, including Apple’s pre-installed apps like Photos or iTunes, for example. A few apps also offer multiple actions to choose from – on Facebook, you can create a shortcut to launch the app, go to your profile, go to another’s profile, go to a Facebook page or go to a Facebook group.
Twitter users can add a shortcut that either launches the app or lets you compose a tweet. On Whatsapp, you can create shortcuts for launching the app or sending a message. Yelp and Yo also have multiple shortcuts available.
A Pro version is available for $2.99 which removes the “Sponsored Launcher” that adds a sponsored app to your list of shortcuts. It’s worth the upgrade.
Founder Greg Gardner, a software developer working in San Francisco, says he first learned about custom URLs and deep linking (the technology that powers the app shortcuts in Launcher) when he worked on mobile analytics firm Flurry’s advertising team. Last year, he decided to leave Flurry and found his own company, Cromulent Labs, to build apps for mainstream users.
The first was a crossword puzzle (he and his wife are fans), but soon realized an app would need to offer something new to really stand out and gain traction in today’s crowded app market.
“So I went back to my list of a dozen or so app ideas I’ve collected over the years and thought that a new iOS 8 Today Widget that could deep link into other apps would be extremely useful,” he says. “I started working on it that day and the plan was to have something ready on the day iOS 8 went live. So I’ve been working on it tirelessly ever since.”
Cromulent Labs is bootstrapped, as Gardner earns a little on the side through consulting, and he says he plans on keeping it that way.
“From the time I started my company, the plan hasn’t been trying to get rich; I was just hoping I could make apps that would make enough money to keep me employed. So far it’s been an awesome experience and I love everything about it except I haven’t yet made enough money to live off of yet,” Gardner notes. “I’m really hoping to change that with Launcher.”
The app is a free download (with in-app purchases) here on iTunes.