Some apps available for smartphones these days try and do too much at once. They present you with an endless list of features, but they’re all executed badly and the resulting experience is frustrating. Other apps, whilst having less features, focus on one specific task but pull it off brilliantly — and the resulting experience is fantastic. Countdown Me is a great example of the latter. Let’s take a look at how it takes such a simple concept, and turns it into a very well-rounded app that’s a joy to use.
What Does it Do?
Countdown Me has one sole purpose — to show you how many days there are between the current day, and a predefined date. Sounds pretty boring, but it’s useful to a lot of people. It’s a quick way of seeing how long you have to buy that anniversary present, or how many more days you must survive on the breadline before your next pay day. Sure, you could add those in to your calendar and see it that way, but this app just makes it quick. Like, so much quicker.
Upon opening the app, you’re presented with an Add New Countdown screen, with three options. You can create a standard countdown — assign it a name and date and you’re good to go — or you can select or create a calendar event and have it countdown to the date it occurs on. Even though it wouldn’t take long to just enter the date manually, being able to select a predefined calendar event just shaves off those few seconds — and this app is all about getting information to you in a snap.
It’s also worth mentioning you can add more than one countdown — you just swipe between them once they’re set up. Literally, effortless.
Whilst this app is very much focused on one key purpose, that doesn’t stop it from pulling off some awesome little features. The main one being the ability to have an iOS badge notification appear on the app’s home screen icon, displaying the number of days remaining in a selected countdown. This way, you can constantly be reminded that you don’t have a lot of time to get your wife’s birthday present — you don’t even have to open the app. It’s a shame we can’t have more than one countdown displayed this way, but obviously that’s a limitation of iOS, and it’s not the developer’s fault at all.
You can also go into the app’s settings and switch on Detailed counting. When set to on, this displays a small “x months, x weeks, x days” counter right beneath the main “x days left” counter. It’s a lovely detail, because sometimes it’s difficult to gauge exactly how long 241 days is. Seeing the months and weeks puts it into a context we’re more used to.
You can also share each countdown using a small share button found at the lower left of each countdown you’ve set up. Not the most useful feature I feel, but it may come in handy and it’s completely unobtrusive when you’re not using it.
Let’s be honest — an app that does something so straightforward is going to have to look very pretty to attract anyone not looking specifically for that particular app. Luckily, Countdown Me doesn’t suffer in that department.
Your countdowns are presented as very modern-yet-retro looking flip pages of a calendar, with a big bold number in the middle that represents the days remaining. Being able to swipe between your countdowns is fantastic and you get the little indicators at the bottom, the same as the ones found on iOS home screens, to make navigation even easier. You even access the screen to add a countdown by swiping to the left of your existing countdowns — it’s all there in a seemless row.
My only gripe with the visuals, is the lack of iPhone 5 optimization. It hardly matters in an app that uses a black background anyway, but just seeing the status bar of iOS sat lower than it should be bugs me. It can’t be a particularly difficult task to update an app like this, and there’s been plenty of time now. That said, I’m not sure anyone really cares — the longest you’ll spend in this app at any one time is a matter of seconds, and that’s the point.
Performance is, as expected, fantastic. It’s all very smooth, and I’ve yet to experience a single crash.
Countdown Me comes in two versions: a free “Lite” version, and a paid full version that will run you $1.99. The lite version is limited to two countdowns of no more than fourteen days, which makes it fairly useless, as most people can countdown things that close by using their brain. It does, however, give you a nice little taster of what the full app could do for you. The asking price of $1.99 for the fully-fledged version is a bit of a stretch; it looks very clean and performs very well, but essentially it’s an app that completes a very simple mathematical sum and displays the answer in bold writing for you. It’s the kind of app I’d envision students having to write as a first assignment in an app development class.
Even with the very nice design work on top, it’s a $0.99 app at a push. Being double that price is going to put a lot of potential buyers off.
Apps as simple as these tend to show up in their hundreds in the app store, from developers hoping to make a quick buck or two with very little work. It’s nice to see one where time and effort have clearly been spent. The price is a little disappointing alongside an almost pointless lite version, but if you have a spare $2, you could find apps a lot worse.