There’s no shortage of currency converter apps for travelers to load onto their iPhones, but there’s also no shortage of badly designed currency converter apps — so the simplicity and speed of this nicely designed newcomer Elk stands out. Which perhaps explains why its app icon is a bull elk, rather than a boring currency symbol.
Instead of having to manually enter values to convert, the app automatically presents a list of 10 values in set increments (e.g. ones, tens, hundreds, thousands and so on) in the first currency, along with the conversion for each listed value in the second.
To bump up the value of the entire list by a factor of 10 you simply swipe left. For another 10x, swipe left again. You can keep swiping until the largest number in the list hits 100 billion. Then swiping right bumps all the values back down by 10x, til you’re at the smallest units list.
So it’s basically a super speedy way of getting at a glance rates tables.
If you want to convert smaller increments than are listed at first glance you can also tap (or use a long press on the iPhone 6s or later to peek via 3D Touch) on the closest number to the figure you’re trying to convert to pop open another list of in-between values, plus their conversions.
And while you can’t enter an even more specific value — say, £4.23 — you’ll get something close enough (£4.20) to be good enough for most on-the-fly currency conversion needs. And you’ll get it without having to fiddle around with numerical keypads. It’s all controlled with a few swipes and taps. Hence the team billing the app as the “fastest way to convert currencies on your trips.”
Currency rates come from CurrencyLayer, and are updated hourly — which the team reckons is “sufficient” for this traveler convenience-focused use-case. That focus is also why you won’t find Bitcoin in the list of available currencies, either.
The app automatically selects the first two currencies to display and convert based on your location and phone settings.
You can swap their order (by tapping on the currency code at the top of the list), and — in the Pro version — select additional currencies to convert, as well as also set custom conversion rates.
The basic app is a free download, with a two-week trial of Elk Pro where you have access to all currencies. After the trial Pro is a $3.99 in-app purchase.
Given the swipe- and tap-based interface, Elk also looks well- suited for owners of the Apple Watch. Users can tap, swipe and rotate the Digital Crown to convert currencies on their wrist where typing or tapping on numerical keypads would be even more fiddly.
“There are a lot of currency apps. Elk is more focused for travelers, and especially those with an Apple Watch. It’s hard to find a good watch app, and we feel this is a perfect fit for it,” developer Hon Cheng tells us.