Apple really went above and beyond with most of the stock apps on iPhone. As much as we hate to admit it, the stock apps are all a lot of people will ever need. Notes, Compass (now with a built-in level!), Weather, Calendar, Camera, and even the Maps app are actually pretty good. Apart from the occasional app I recommend for their specific needs, many of my friends are really content leaving their home screen exactly how Apple set it up.
That being said, there are some apps that Apple neglected to include. They have a Stocks app and a Calculator, but they didn’t include a unit or currency converter to match the World Clock. Vert rectifies this with a beautiful interface that not only matches iOS 7 very well, but also does its own thing with great panache. Many other developers should start taking notes. Read on to find out what Vert does and why it’s so beautiful.
What Vert Does
Vert is a unit converter. It’s not just about converting currency, though. It can handle just about anything, and I mean anything. If you need to convert currency, that’s one thing, but Vert works with frequencies, power ratings, metric prefixes, density, energy, force, frequency, etc. Basically, you name it, and Vert can convert it. Vert goes so far as as to include the ability to convert typography — which I didn’t even realize needed a conversion tool. Sure enough, though, the app can convert point size to millimetres, centimetres, or inches without a problem.
The app’s also got a few categories nobody in their right mind would expect. Take rock climbing, for example. I used to rock climb when I was younger, but never enough to understand what this app is converting. The app can also convert clothing sizes — everything from bra cup and band to suits and dresses (and, perhaps most importantly, shoes).
In short, there are enough categories and conversion units that Vert also has a Search bar and Favourites field. Searching, sadly, doesn’t work as you might expect. While it can narrow down what you’re looking for by a considerably large margin, it only searches the categories and not the conversion units. That means typing “in” brings up Rock ClimbINg, and typing “ur” brings up CURrency. However, searching for “USD” doesn’t bring up Currency like you might expect. (Side note about currencies: The app has automatic currency detection based on the location you’re in. So if you’re travelling abroad, your location data will help Vert know exactly the information you need.)
For something like that, you’re better off using the Favourites. Double tapping on any field marks it as a Favourite, filling in an otherwise hollow star. Tapping on the Star beside the Search field brings up a quickly-accessible list of all your favourites.
You can mark Categories as Favourites, and Units as Favourites. I’ve marked USD and CAD (Canadian) as my favourite units in the Currencies category. The Currencies category is also labeled as a favourite. So I can tap the Star to quickly find Currencies and quickly tap the Star again on the custom in-app keyboard to find Canadian and US funds in my list. It’s easy to do.
It’s just a shame that the Search function doesn’t work as I expect it to — I wish it was an in-app search and not just a Categories search.
Talking About the Design
But apart from that one flaw in the app, I can’t find anything to complain about with the app’s design and experience. This is an example of flawless, beautiful work. The app is beautiful on iOS 7, but to my surprise, actually works on devices as old as iOS 5. So it’s using some old technology to accomplish some very meaningful things.
Everything you’d expect to have in an iOS 7 app is present: Precise typography, a focus on content, and beautiful colour selections are rampant. You can even swipe right to go back and get to the Settings. In fact, since the developer has had to implement his own fashion of this, his version of swiping back offers a sense of depth that Apple’s doesn’t. When you swipe right to go back in Vert, the page you’re currently on casts a shadow on the page beneath it. It’s a very cool effect that looks very intentionally three-dimensional and carries a sense of depth that Apple’s solution simply doesn’t have.
The app’s also got a great UIPicker. I’m one of those people that thinks the UIPicker in iOS 7 is broken (Itty Bitty Labs has a great writeup about it), and Vert’s implementation of a similar feature is much better. While selecting units to convert, scrolling up and down is seamless and easy because you don’t need to plant your finger over the content to drag up and down on the list. Instead, you can tap on the unit you’re interested in or simply scroll up and down from anywhere. It’s simple enough that you’ll never have to think about it — a huge plus over Apple’s UIPicker in iOS 7.
The app also uses a custom calculator keyboard that I really like. The keyboard has a Favourite button built in, but it also allows for some simple math to be done. If you need negative numbers or decimal points, that’s a piece of cake. If you need to multiply, divide, add, or subtract a few numbers, it’s not a problem. The backspace button works exactly as you’d expect. It allows you to erase characters if you’ve made a mistake in your equation. If you’ve already hit the Equals button, you can use the Backspace button to reset the calculator to 0.
Finally, I have to share one more thought on the design: I love the colours. I love the selection that is included in Vert. I think iPhone 5c owners will find particular delight in realizing that there is a set of colours that is guaranteed to match their iPhones, which I think is really smart and very classy. Thankfully, the $0.99 app doesn’t include any in-app purchases. That being said, I could see the developer implementing additional themes as an in-app purchase should he ever choose to make the app free.
I think it says worlds that Vert includes colours to match every iPhone currently available. That requires a lot of thought and time and consideration, and it’s an absolute pleasure to use an app where so many little details have been given that time and attention to detail. In some ways, words can’t do it justice. That’s why I’m thrilled to say Vert has an amazing website. Go check it out and get a virtual tour of the product.
In a world where the art of typography and carefully-drawn interfaces is often lacking, Vert is a breath of fresh air in a genre filled with bland free apps. Vert might be filling a niche, but it’s doing so with style.