I’m really fond of coffee shops. Maybe I’m a closet hipster or something, but I find they really help me work. Throughout my university years, I lived right in a downtown area and would frequent one of the five or six coffee shops within a block of each other nearly every day. Sometimes I made the trek across town for a coffee/Scotch bar to work at. I love the background noise and I love the city atmosphere they provided, plus there’s some science that says working in new places helps you get work done, as does background chatter. I’m most at peace in a big city.
Since moving back home after school though, I’ve really missed that city atmosphere. I live in a smaller area now, and there are very few good coffee shops — and they’re all inconveniently located. I spend most days working in my home office, which can be a bit of a dreary and quiet existence. So I was thrilled when I discovered Coffitivity, an app that brings the background noise of the coffee shop back into my daily life. Read on to learn more.
Caffeine Kicks and Chattering Bits
I want to make it clear, first of all, that Coffitivity is not just an iPhone app. Before it was an iPhone app, I was using the web app to get things done. It was an easy to get some background chatter going while I was on my Mac, and if I wanted to listen to music at the same time, I could just play it from iTunes. I loved it, but it wasn’t exactly great for on-the-go use.
Both the web service and the iPhone app share the same recognizable features, including three different backing soundtracks called Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge and University Undertones. I like University Undertones the best, although I couldn’t explain why; it’s just what my ears find the most agreeable.
The iPhone app integrates these sounds into an insanely simple interface that makes using the app super easy. Cycling through the different “soundtracks” takes only a couple swipes. None of them repeat too often, and apart from a couple obvious noises — a loud thud or a random chair squeak, for example — I never find myself noticing them on a loop. Because I’m not actively listening to the tracks, I might not be hearing the loop as easily. But the point isn’t to actively listen. I think most people will find that the tracks are long enough to not be distracting or obvious.
Arguably, the app’s strongest feature are the background noises. Coffitivity also includes a music streaming feature.
First, the app integrates exclusively with the built-in Music app on your iPhone. You can’t stream music with Pandora or Rdio, which I think makes sense, but I don’t want anybody to be disappointed if they purchase the app and realize its limitations.
To add a track, just tap on the button and choose the music you want to listen to. The app works best when you select a playlist and let it shuffle your music, but me being the stubborn person that I am, I wanted to listen to an entire Kaki King album.
This proved to be a little more difficult than it should have been. The app crashed every time I tapped the Artists button, and when browsing albums, it seemed to get confused as to which album I was tapping on sometimes. When I selected Paradise Valley, John Mayer’s newest record, the app played Coldplay’s Parachutes instead. After realizing the glitch meant that the app wasn’t recognizing the album properly and was playing the one previous to my selection in the list, I selected the album listed after Paradise Valley. At that point, the new Mayer record started to play. If you want the technical problem, I think it’s related to the Table code that changes how apps are displayed on 3.5“ or 4” screens. But I can’t say for sure.
Some albums, like the Kaki King record I wanted, played fine, so the problem doesn’t seem to be entirely consistent. That said, I think it’s unacceptable for a paid app to have a flaw this fundamentally large in it. I fully expect it to get fixed in an update, but you need to know the flaw is real right now. At the time of writing, this is version 1.1.1, so keep an eye out on the App Store for future versions if you’re wary.
Music is played the same way that the background noise is played. Tapping on the album artwork plays or pauses the music, and swiping over the album artwork skips a track. There’s no button indicating that you can skip a track, which is a little bit of an odd inclusion, but at least the feature is there.
One thing that I do like is the ability to turn up or down the music. The background chatter is at the fixed level your device is at, but you can control the music level separately. If you don’t want the music to overwhelm the noise, it’s easy to set that up just by sliding the volume bar. Oddly, pushing the volume bar towards the top makes the music quieter. Dragging it to the bottom of the screen makes it louder. Based on the volume bar’s colour scheme, I would have thought it would be the other way around, but it’s not a big deal.
The app doesn’t crash when it’s in use, apart from selecting the Artist tab, and seems to run just fine in the background. I never had an issue when I was surfing the web or answering text messages or emails.
Word in the Coffee Shop
I love Coffitivity to bits. It helps me focus and makes it easier for me to get work done. I’m even willing to tolerate the crash and the bugs with selecting my own music, although I’m not terribly happy about it. I wish the bugs weren’t there; my score would be much higher otherwise.
As it is, it’s hard to recommend the app for everybody. It’s got a tremendously huge bug in it right now — one that’s somewhat workable, but not minor in any way. If the app were free, it’d be a recommendation despite that, but because of its cost, I feel its imperative you consider waiting for an update or walk in with a very open mind. Otherwise, Coffitivity would be the near-perfect companion app for coffee addicts.
Coffitivity has tons of potential and would be the perfect background noise app for coffee shop lovers if it didn't have a huge bug when it came to adding music from your own iTunes library. Keep an eye out for a future update to hopefully fix the problem.6