One Less App

Removing Apps for Fun and Freedom

I like to keep my options open most of the time. I like to explore all the alternatives, just see what's out there, you know?

But this is one where, when I realized there was a built-in solution, I got rid of all the alternatives. QR reading should be part of the OS on a mobile device. So when I discovered that there's a little app that can be added to the control panel that scans QR Codes I got rid of all the 3rd party ones. I don't use QR codes all that often and I hadn't really found a 3rd party app that provided any utility other than “hey here's the text that was in that code!” so away they all go!

P.S. while writing this I discovered yet another feature of DuckDuckGo: if you search for QR or similar, it will create a QR code for you.

Not a lot to say about this one. I installed it when it first came out, played it for a few minutes and rapidly lost interest. I had been playing Pokemon Moon on my 3DS before that and enjoyed that game, but in a mild, pass-the-time sort of way.

I started playing Pokemon Go a second time a few months ago with my kids, but all of us lost interest fairly rapidly as we realized our little suburban neighborhood only had so many things to see and do, and it wasn't really worth our time to get in the car and drive somewhere else to get different computer monsters for our phone game.

I really like the this game in theory. I like the idea of a game that gets people outside, into groups, talking and excited. These are all good things. I hope people keep finding happiness playing this game!

Drafts is an excellent app. On an iPad.

Back when I had an iPad Drafts was probably one of my most used apps, but when my iPad died my usage of Drafts died with it. There may be people out there who are good at taking useful notes on an iPhone. I, sadly, am not one of them.

The beauty of Drafts is its “write first decide later” nature. Drafts isn't trying to be Evernote, or Scrivener, or Bear, or Twitter. Drafts is a place to capture a quick thought or idea before it disappears. Once you've captured an idea you can decide it's a new blog post and send it to Wordpress, or decide it's part of a story and send it to Scrivener. Or it's a note for work and send it to Evernote, or it's a note for work that should be on Slack.

The problem is that my iPhone is the center of all distractions. It's hard for me to grab an idea without getting distracted by all the little red circles on apps that want me to know that there's something for me to think about right now. And if I can make it past the thicket of notifications then I have to contend with the fact that I suck at phone typing. the iPhone's predictive text is pretty good, but I'm still slow enough that by the time I've written the first few sentences of an idea I've forgotten the last few.

So I've found an idea catcher that works for me:

A Field Notes memo book in my back pocket, and a Fisher “bullet” pen in my front pocket. I find I have a much higher rate of success capturing fleeting ideas on paper than in any app.

So in this case, Drafts, it really isn't you, it's me.

Layout might have been the easiest app to remove so far. I used it once. If I did more with Instagram I might use it again.

I like apps like this, on a conceptual level. One of my favorite things about the progress of technology is how many creative tools are being made available to everyone.

Looking at the history of this app, it appears its in maintenance mode; no new features, just bug fixes. Which isn't a bad thing per se, sometimes what you have does everything you need.

Prompt 2 Logo

This one is difficult.

I really love this app. Panic Makes some of the best apps around, and Prompt 2 is no exception. It does one thing, very well. It's an SSH app. Fire it up, connect to an SSH server, and keep your *nix boxes running. It's got all the right features; little shortcuts to do common tasks without having to type them out, excellent layout, session recovery, the works. Prompt is good stuff.

The problem is: I don't do much of that right now, and especially not from my phone. There was a time where I was genuinely running admin duties on a bunch of servers and I used this app all the time on my iPad. These days my duties at work have shifted, I'm a dev lead instead of sysadmin. In my personal life I've shut down a lot of my side projects so I can focus on school.

Prompt speaks to a version of myself that is no longer relevant, or at least, isn't relevant right now. When and if I buy another iPad I can guarantee I will install this app on there almost instantly, but I have to admit that I haven't used it on my phone in more than a year. So Prompt leaves my phone. Gone, but not forgotten.

Frost is one of those games that feels good. The controls are simple, unexplained, and intuitive. You're guiding a bunch of autonomous little spots of light to a globe where they can be happy. That's the goal of each level.

The way you do that in each level changes, sometimes in little nuanced ways, sometimes in novel and surprising ways. In each level you discover the rules for that level by playing around with it. Sometimes a screen tap does this, but on this level it does that. Some particles react this way, other particles don't react at all.

The flow of the game is dreamlike, simple and easygoing. You can't really lose; you can just keep trying to beat a level over and over until you do. I was totally enraptured with this game for a couple of weeks and played every level at least twice. Many levels have multiple valid solutions, letting you play and see if you can trick the particles in this way or that. This game is a pleasant and effective little stress reducer.

Photomath is the kind of app that makes technology feel worthwhile. This is the kind of app that I fervently hoped for back in high school. This is the kind of app that many, many people are undoubtedly using many times a day.

It's a magical concept that seems almost mundane in our age of wonders. Point your phone at an equation, and the app solves it, showing its work. If you need a graph it'll give you a graph. If your handwriting is anywhere close to legible it'll do its job and do it so simply and gracefully it doesn't even seem like magic, because it's too seamless. Magic is showy, this is just...good.

So why am I deleting it? Because I haven't used it in almost a year. I downloaded it when I was in an accounting class that thought it was an algebra class. It helped me learn a lot of things in that class, because it worked through the steps when the professor wouldn't. I'm a developer by trade and an MBA student at night, and right now I'm working through classes that are less math and more management. Photomath can't help me resolve interpersonal disputes or bring a coalition together to support a new business proposition.

Not yet, anyway.

The Battle for Polytopia is a good game. Basically, they took Civilization and condensed it from several hours to a few minutes. You've got a number of tribes that you can choose from, and a very finite number of turns to totally take over the small maps. There are no culture, religion, or science victories here. The only thing that matters is total domination. If you can't do that you better have the best score when the timer runs out. The makers of this game had a theme and stuck to it faithfully.

Beyond that, Polytopia is a beautiful game. The art style is minimalist, simple angles and planes, but rich in color and motion. The art perfectly fits the sparse gameplay.

Theoretically you can keep playing this game just about forever; the mechanics are simple but engaging. The different tribes have just enough variation between them to keep the gameplay feeling fresh while allowing you to learn the various systems and get good at them, whichever tribe you're playing.

And if you get bored with fighting the AI you can start fights online with your friends, but not strangers. This seems like a very clever design decision they made when creating the game.

I've had Polytopia on my phone for about five months or so, and I've really enjoyed my time with it.

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