Push notifications are frustratingly brilliant. They should be perfect for bringing your attention to things that need doing, and news you would otherwise miss. Yet most of the whistles and chimes that go all day are of little interest — I can live without knowledge of LinkedIn statuses and Madden roster updates. Hence, a new app named Drop (iOS and Android) has potential. It aims to make notifications truly useful again, and it mostly succeeds.
Think of this compact app as a RSS reader for your notifications panel. Except it’s not quite that clever yet, because you can’t input your own feeds. However, there are 500 “Channels” from which you can choose to receive updates. Along with a handful of mainstream news sites, there are several technology sources (e.g. featured TechCrunch stories, links that reach 100 likes on Product Hunt) as well as alerts for new episodes of big TV shows, updates on major sports teams, and feeds from general interest sites (e.g. Buzzfeed). It is a decent spread, although it doesn’t have the depth to match everyone’s interests at present. But the app is barely a month old, and new Channels are being added all the time.
All the Channels you’ve subscribed to are listed in the app’s main view, and each can be turned on/off individually. The notifications themselves can be tapped to open the link being sent, and each Channel’s updates are differentiated by a colored square which matches the source site’s branding.
The other really interesting feature is the ability to create your own Channels. After providing a name and picking a color, you share a link to your Channel, allowing other Drop users to subscribe. The idea is then to compose text-and-link messages, from within the app, which will be sent out to your subscribers.
It is a system that strongly resembles App.net’s largely unsuccessful offering, Broadcast. Only time will tell as to whether Drop will suffer the same fate, but at the moment, it is a sparky new app with a promising future.
P.S. Also check out Push, a very similar app, for iOS only.
Extra Time — Pennies (iOS, $1.99)
Another app that caught my eye this week is Pennies, a beautifully designed budgeting utility.
Quite simply, you set a time frame, and an amount you wish to spend within that time frame. The app then works out how much you can spend daily. The idea is far from new, but the usability of Pennies is superb. Logging a transaction requires nothing more than to enter the amount. Tapping on-screen switches between your overall budget and today’s allowance, while swiping sideways switches from budget to budget (e.g. personal and business). The background even changes from happy green to alarmed red to indicate when you’re running low.
Note that Pennies is definitely not an expenses app, but if you need something simple to keep an eye on your outgoings, it works a treat.
Pennies is out now in the App Store ($1.99).
The Mac to the Future Bundle – $29.99 (96% off)