App Review: Clear for iPhone

You probably have heard about Clear, the to-do list app that made a big splash a couple of months ago with its extremely simple and unique interface. It truly is an app that thinks outside the box when it comes to user experience. I immediately downloaded it because the interface was just so different and intriguing I had to touch it. I played with it for a while, added some tasks and lists, deleted some, changed themes and thoroughly enjoyed the quirky little app. Clear is great. It’s ground-breaking even. It totally re-imagines user interactions. That’s all well and fine but is it useful?

Some would say Clear’s lack of fancy bells and whistles is what makes it great. There aren’t any buttons and you add, delete and re-arrange with swipes and gestures. This part really works well and I think it’s an improvement over other list apps I’ve used. To fully appreciate the UI, you really need to use it but this video does a good job walking through it.

The simplicity that makes it great is also what makes it so frustrating. If you want to view your list on a computer, you’re out of luck. Clear doesn’t synch up with any of your beloved services. You won’t find any iCloud or Google here. I assume they feel everyone has their iPhone with them all the time. While that is true (for me at least) I also am at my computer the majority of the day and would love to have my iCal or Google Calendar to effortlessly synch my tasks from Clear. Sometimes it’s easier to manage these tasks on the device I’m using and not have to pull out my phone and open an app just to check an item off my list. I don’t think this is necessarily a deal-breaker but it’s certainly annoying.

The biggest downfall of Clear is its lack of dates. You can create a task for anything but you can’t assign a due date to it. Sometimes it’s really nice to know a bill is due on such-and-such date so you make sure it’s in the mail on time. I would like these date-assigned tasks to show up in my calendar so when I’m looking at what’s going on today, I can see a task that needs to get done too. Again, this begs the question, “how simple is too simple?”

Visually, Clear isn’t much to look at (but in a good way). It’s basically just rectangles of tasks. That’s pretty much all it needs to be. They offer a variety of themes that change those rectangle’s colors. You can earn “bonus” themes by having other apps (for example, Path) and games installed or following team members on twitter. I’ve even read that completing 100 tasks unlocks a theme. That’s a nice little Easter egg. It would probably be nice if you could design your own themes. It probably wouldn’t be hard to allow you to pick your own set of colors, but that complicates the app and goes against the simplicity they’re going for.

Screen shots of the Clear app

Overall I like Clear. I still use it but to-do lists for me always seem like such a great idea until I forget about them. Clear is fun and useful. I’m making an effort to remember to use it everyday. I wish it had a few more features to it (perhaps due dates with alerts could remind me to use it more) but its unique interface is very refreshing and might just make up for its lack of features.

You can check out Clear in the App Store.

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