The App Store features over 900,000 apps. Of those 900,000, a small percentage are widely used or even recognizable by most iOS users, and of that small percentage is a very tiny group of apps that can be considered “innovative.” While taken for granted by many now, Shazam was a truly remarkable app when it was released. By simply tapping a button, the app would identify the title and artist for a song you heard playing in public. Bump was also a truly innovative app when it was released, allowing users to instantly swap contact information by the mere action of bumping hands.
To be considered an innovative app, it’s my belief that it must inspire a user to say, “Wow, that’s really cool” during their initial use — or something along those lines. When I first used Thunderspace, I had such a reaction. Find out why after the jump.
By all definitions, Thunderspace is a relaxation app the recreates the audial and visual experience of a thunderstorm. While the concept may come off as gimmicky, Thunderspace is anything but. With a combination of headphones/earbuds and the iPhone’s LED flash, Thunderspace is capable creating a remarkable mock thunderstorm experience.
By partnering up with Emmy-award winning nature sound recordist Gordon Hempton, developer Taptanium was able to create a stereoscopic 3D audio experience. Much like vision, humans hear in 3D, which is why listening to music in stereo is infinitely better than listening to it in mono.The audio is so well produced that it perfectly mimics a real life thunderstorm. In fact, I often used the app while writing (yes, I’m doing it now as well) or doing other work, and had to remind myself that the thunderstorm I was hearing wasn’t actually real.
To create the full audial and visual experience, Thunderstorm recommends that you place your iPhone out of sight so you can’t see the flash source. The LED flash goes off in cue with thunder, but often just before you hear the thunder since light is faster than sound. My initial experience left me awestruck, as all of my senses indicated that the faux storm was in fact genuine. Simply put, Thunderspace is capable of suspending disbelief.
With the purchase of Thunderspace, you receive two thunderstorms: Roof Garden and Waterscape. The app also includes six additional thunderstorms that you can download by way of in-app purchases. A 20+ second preview for the additional thunderstorms is available, allowing you to get a feel for what each track has to offer.
Thunderstorms are up to 26 minutes long, which Taptanium happily compares to the average length of nature sound loops they’ve seen in other apps, which is around two minutes. Each thunderstorm seamlessly loops, and never seems to get repetitive in my experience. The intensity of rainfall fluctuates during the loop, much like a real storm, and the thunder seems to occur sporadically instead of in a predictive pattern.
The Design & Navigation
Thunderspace’s design and navigation may be quite familiar for those that use Taptanium’s other app, Haze. The main view features beautifully rendered gradients that aim (and succeed) to match the mood of the storm you’re experiencing, and you can begin a thunderstorm by tapping the play button. If you wish you add the lightning effect, tap the lightning bolt icon so that it’s solid white. When the lightning effect is off, you can listen to thunderstorms in the background while using another app or putting your display to sleep.
Much like Haze, navigating Thunderspace requires the use of gestures. From the main view you can swipe right to access the thunderstorms or swipe down to access the settings. A description is provided for each thunderstorm, offering a bit of background about the atmosphere the track is aiming to provide. The settings menu offers no adjustments to the app, as none are really needed. Instead, you can use the settings to share, rate or gift the app, restore purchases, replay the intro, and get support if you’re experiencing issues.
The Bottom Line
Thunderspace is a remarkably creative app, and one I’m happy to have experienced. While writing or working I love having an audial distraction, but often can’t listen to music because the vocals are too distracting. Now I can simply turn on a thunderstorm and work away. Also, the variety of thunderstorms offered is so broad that I can find a storm to fit my particular mood.
The only area that Thunderspace disappoints is accessibility. The play/pause button and lightning button are generically labeled as “button” when tapped while using VoiceOver, and the thunderstorms view can’t even be accessed. Many individuals with visual impairments are sure to love what Thunderspace offers, and I hope Taptanium will take the necessary steps that will allow those users to do so.
As a lover of thunderstorms, Thunderspace will always have a home on my iPhone. If you too find comfort in the soothing sounds of rain and the clashing of thunder, Thunderspace is without a doubt a must-have app. At the time of this writing, Thunderspace is on sale for $0.99 (regularly $2.99) and the six purchasable thunderstorms are available for $0.99 each (normally $1.99 each). So I strongly recommend making your purchases sooner than later.