If you’re a nerdy sort of iPhone user, then you know the frustration that comes from tapping a link on the web and then being directed to some crappy mobile website for the app instead of the lovely, native version you already have installed on your phone. For example, a link in a news article referencing a tweet might take you to Twitter’s mobile site instead of the Twitter app. Meanwhile, when tapping links inside native apps, you often can’t exit the app either – it just opens up a mobile website within the app you’re already using.
The problem is one that’s better solved on Android, where links associated with an app can be opened within that app no matter where on the system the URL is tapped. iOS users aren’t so lucky, unfortunately.
Built as a side project by Flipboard engineer Tim Johnsen, Opener’s creator explains that the problem was basically a huge personal pain point.
“I always get frustrated that we have these brilliant devices in our pocket with amazing software, yet developers don’t make their apps work together and websites don’t work with apps well either,” he says. “Android does this so much better than iOS – they’ve had this built into the system from the get go. I’m trying to improve the experience by letting people get to what they want quickly and easily.”
Opener works in one of two ways. First, you can copy a link you find on the web and then launch the Opener app to choose which native application you want to open the link within. A YouTube link, for instance, would let you pick from native apps like ProTube or YouTube. A Twitter link could be opened in Twitter, Tweetbot, or Twitterific.
The app also includes an “Action” extension, which works in those apps that support the iOS share sheet. After setting up the extension (Opener offers simple instructions for doing this), the Opener app will appear as one of the actions you can take when you long press on a link inside an app. That is, next to the options “Add to Reading List,” “Copy,” or “Open in Safari,” among other things, there will be a new “Action” labeled “Opener.” Tapping this opens the app where, again, you can pick which native app should be used to open up the link in question.
For example, if you come across an Instagram link while browsing posts on Twitterific, you could tap Opener then choose “Instagram” to open the link directly within the Instagram native application.
At present, Opener supports 50 applications ranging from social apps like Instagram and Twitter, to media apps like Spotify and YouTube, to shopping apps like Amazon and Kickstarter and more. Johnsen says he’s continuing to add others all the time, and they’ll appear in the “New Supported Apps” section in Opener when they’re added.
OK, fine. I told you it was a bit nerdy.
But if you’re just nerdy enough to know the problem Opener addresses, you might be willing to chip in the $1.99 Johnsen is charging for his solution. That might be too high a price for this sort of niche utility, but Johnsen argues that not only will it help him purchase the apps he needs to test Opener with, it will attract a smaller, but less fickle, user base.
“Sure, I could get a ton of users if the app was free, but I really want users who can make good, long-lasting use of it and find it valuable enough to pay for,” he says.
As someone who spends huge chunks of my day tapping on my iPhone’s screen, I skipped my Starbucks latte today and bought Opener instead. Of course, this could end up being a temporary fix to a problem that’s addressed with the release of the next version of the iOS operating system, iOS 9. In fact, there are already hints that something like this could be in the works.
But if you can’t wait for the core OS improvements to arrive, Opener is $1.99 here on iTunes.