Favorite Apps: Launch Center

There’s been quite a bit of buzz this week over App Cubby’s new app, Launch Center. Here’s the blurb:

Launch apps and trigger actions from a quick, easy to use app! Call a friend, start an email, send a text, post to Twitter, turn on a flashlight — get to where you’re going faster than ever before.

Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t see the appeal of such an app at first. All of my apps are literally a tap or three away. Why would I possibly need an app to launch my apps?! It’s so recursive!

But a few trustworthy folks, including Dave Caolo and Federico Viticci, seemed pretty excited about Launch Center, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. Lo and behold, I discovered much usefulness in this app-launching app, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

As App Cubby’s description indicates, Launch Center allows you to create shortcuts to your favorite apps and actions within those apps. These include speed dialing, texting, launching an app or website, emailing, and tweeting, among others.

Launch Center itself is a sparse, but pretty, app. When you open it, you see your list of shortcuts, and you can either tap one of them or edit the list to add/remove shortcuts. That’s it.

So, why might you want to use this? Why not just open Messages when you want to send a message, or Mail when you want to send an email? The answer lies in saving precious seconds.

Let’s take texting, for example. The number of people I text on a near-daily basis is small, and I delete my text conversations every few days. Starting a new text conversation with someone is slightly tedious, because I have to tap Messages, type the first few letters of their name, make sure to avoid tapping anyone with similar letters, select the person, tap the message field, and then finally compose my text.

Launch Center eliminates this friction. I can create a shortcut for “Text Keith”, and it automatically switches to Messages, addresses the text to Keith, and puts the cursor in the message field so I can start typing immediately. That’s about half the taps of doing it manually, which may not seem like much — HOW LAZY CAN YOU BE?! — but you can feel the difference.

Speed dialing is also useful. The two people I actually call the most are my mom and dad, and tapping Phone, scrolling through all my contacts or recent calls, then tapping the appropriate phone number is tedious. Even Phone » Favorites » Mom is three taps. With Launch Center, I create a “Call Mom” shortcut for her cell phone, and it takes two taps to make the call. Launch Center » Call Mom. Hence App Cubby’s slogan, “Tap. Tap. Go!”

You can tweet right from Launch Center using iOS 5, or post directly to Facebook. You can also add shortcuts to other apps on your phone. Why would you want to do this? Here’s where you need to get creative.

I love Instagram, but I don’t keep it on my home screen. When I want to take an Instagram photo, I have to swipe to my second page of apps and tap Instagram, which probably opens the Feed view. Chances are I want to take a picture, so I have to tap again on the Share button to open the Instagram camera. This process takes a long… time… especially when you’re trying to capture a moment on the spot.

Launch Center allows you to create shortcuts to specific actions in supported apps. In Instagram’s case, you can create a shortcut that takes you right to the camera. Once again, half the taps.

The other benefit is that you can essentially access apps that aren’t on your home screen from your home screen. Say you keep Maps in a folder on page four of your iPhone. When you need to know how to get somewhere, finding that app is going to be a pain in the ass. But, if you have Launch Center on your home screen, two taps and you’re there. BOOM. This is wonderful because it makes choosing your home screen apps a little less stressful. Any supported app can be two taps away with a Launch Center shortcut, and you can do the same thing with websites. Safari » Bookmarks » Website becomes Launch Center » Website.

So, don’t dismiss this app-launching app; it can save you precious seconds and tedious taps. Check it out, especially if you have pages and pages of apps. Version 1.2 was just released, and it will be exciting to see how App Cubby increases its functionality in future versions. Launch Center has earned a spot on my home screen, and I’m feeling good about it.

You can buy Launch Center for $0.99 on the App Store.

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