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Home / Technology / Universal Version, New Business Model, NFC Trigger and More – MacStories

Universal Version, New Business Model, NFC Trigger and More – MacStories



Launch Center Pro, Contrast's popular launcher for iPhone and iPad, has been updated to version 3.0. It's hard to believe, but Launch Center Pro 2.0 came out five years ago (in 2013), before Workflow, when Pythonista, Editorial and Drafts were the only other apps that pushed the idea of ​​iOS automation thanks to browser and x -callback-url.

The IOS automation landscape is vastly different five years later. Although Apple has not yet sent a native automation framework for inter-app communications, and url plans are still the only way to allow apps to exchange data with each other in an automated manner, the development of Workflow to the shortcut brings users a simpler, more integrated solution to create complex workflows. Not to mention how, thanks to its widget, & # 39; Open URL & # 39; action and the ability to add custom launches on the home screen, shortcuts can only replace much of the functionality that launch center projects and launchers have become familiar with. Apple may not necessarily think of the shortcut app as "iOS automation" (they have never used this expression in public), but it is undeniable that Workflow (then) and shortcuts (now) are a superior, more powerful alternative to performing actions that were previously exclusive to Launch Center Pro.

Therefore, I think it's best to think of Launch Center Pro in 201

8 as a companion for shortcuts – a more intuitive, perhaps simplified, versatile frontend to launch actions and programs in different ways by triggers not supported by Apple, which can complement shortcuts instead of replacing it. And with version 3.0 released today, Contrast also includes this new role Launch Center Pro, doubled on what makes it unique to shortcuts, and expands the app's launch features in a variety of interesting ways.

Universal and (Optional) Subscription Based

The first major change of Launch Center Pro 3.0 is that Contrast leaves separate iPhone and iPad versions in favor of a free Universal app running on all iOS devices. As a prerequisite for Universal Apps itself, and given the issues associated with setting up Siri shortcuts on multiple versions of the same app on different platforms, I think this is the right move.

Unfortunately, the move to a Universal app has not been. I've taken a significant update to the iPad version of the app. Launch Center Pro 3.0 still does not support iPad multitasking with Slide Over and Split View, nor does it run in full resolution on the new iPad Pros. Although I understand that the iPad rewrite of the app takes a while, has an iPad version that does not support iOS 9 multitasking in a major update year, which makes it feel like a sharp omission that I hope will be fixed soon. In its current state, it's hard for me to recommend Launch Center Pro on iPad alone.

The incentive to continue working with Launch Center Pro at a more common pace can be given by the app's new and optional subscription-based model. Launch Center Pro is now a free download, and both new and old features are now part of a subscription of $ 9.99.

For new users of Launch Center Pro, paid features include a subscription:

  • NFC Triggers
  • Dark and True Black Themes
  • Geofences and iBeacons Location Triggers
  • Scheduled Actions
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • 19659010] Alternative Appicons
  • Unlimited Actions (Up From 10 Actions Free)
  • 10% Discount on NFC Stickers and Goods

If you are an existing Launch Center Pro user, Contrast will create old features which you have once paid for a portion of the free update without having to subscribe. Therefore, if you are an existing user update for Launch Center Pro 3.0 today, only the following new features must be unlocked:

  • NFC Triggers
  • True Black Theme
  • Advanced Scheduling (Multiple Alerts per Action)
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Alternative Appicons

Essentially, the only difference between old and new users is that previous owners of Launch Center Pro get to retain existing features without paying again. Subscriptions are available at $ 9.99 / year with one week free trial, and according to Contrast, the price will be raised each time a large new feature is added to Launch Center Pro. Thanks to Apple's subscription system, if you subscribe to $ 9.99 and maintain your subscription, the cost will not go up and you will lock you in the discounted subscription price. I think this is a reasonable approach: On the one hand, it adds complexity to what's available for free and what's not, but on the other hand, it's a generous offer for launch, especially for existing users of the app. [19659024] Subscriptions, however, are not the only way to unlock all the features of Launch Center Pro 3.0. In fact, the app now offers three different ways to unlock all the features:

  • Subscription
  • A flat one-time fee
  • More purchases in the app to unlock specific features

The fixed fee of $ 29.99 unlocks all features with a one-time purchase without subscribing; For existing owners of the app, the one-time fee is reduced to 24.99 USD. App & # 39; Unlock All Features & # 39; page mentions that one-time purchase will cover all in-app features, but future disk features may cost extra to cover server costs.

With one-time purchases, both old and new owners of the app will be able to unlock individual features in version 3.0 they are interested in. These are the purchases in the app included in the app:

  • NFC Triggers – $ 4.99 [19659010] Themes – $ 1.99
  • Scheduled Actions – $ 4.99
  • Alternative Icons – $ 1.99
  • Unlimited Actions – $ 4.99 (New Users Only)

All of these options provide some degree of complexity to buy Launch Center Pro, but I like the idea of ​​giving customers more choices when it comes to paying for the experience they want. And in this case there is much of choice. I've seen different companies, try different approaches to freemium transitions, but this is the first time I've seen an iOS app switch from a paid upfront model to three different purchasing options based on a first free download. Adding purchasing flexibility can be a way to hide criticism of the switch from "paid and easy" to "free with options" and I'm curious about how it works for contrast.

I asked David Barnard founder of Contrast to provide more detailed information about their decision to adopt a subscription model for Launch Center Pro 3.0. "With the switch to the subscription, it was sensible to switch to universal at the same time," Barnard told me. "Most iOS users are just iPhone, so we split the original iPhone and iPad version – we would not force iPhone-only users to subsidize the price of the iPad version of the app. But as tools like Auto Layout are matured, and since We have included iPad optimization in the planning phase of each new feature, it has become easier to support the iPad. And we hope to make the app more and more interesting on the iPad over time, "Barnard added. 19659037] As I wondered, moving to a subscription model will stimulate the app's developers to continue updating the app with new features for subscribers, instead of chasing new users with paid upgrades. It's a story we've previously heard with like Ulysses and CARROT Weather, and it reflects a shifting dynamism in the App Store as indie developers like Contrast find themselves in the process of getting a shrinking pool of new users willing to buy paid Apps along with existing users who only want their favorite apps to get better. "With the move to the subscription, we will definitely send more often," Barnard said.

"In the past, we have worked on various features and dithered on whether they should not be packaged into a paid update (and in the six years since Launch Center Pro was released, we have never made a paid update), now we are incentivized to keep our existing users happy and keep adding value as soon as possible to stimulate new subscriptions. "One of these features should be, as I mentioned above, support for iPad multitasking and the new iPad Pros; I asked Barnard and confirmed that a better iPad app is "one of the major features" they have in the works in 2019 with a newly upgraded launcher that supports multitasking and all iPad screen sizes. I personally have seen the roadmap for Launch Center Pro in 2019; whose Contrast can deliver on its promise, the next months should provide some exciting improvements to the app.

Although more purchase opportunities are now supported, I understand why Contrast wants to push as many users as possible on subscriptions if they aim to maintain Launch Center Pro in the future and send more frequent updates. I appreciate the inclusion of an initial discount and one-time cancellation fee for all those who do not want to add another subscription to their list. Finally, decide to unlock the full power of Launch Center Pro depending on how much you use the app and the value you get from its advanced options. Personally, I go with $ 24.99 discounted purchases to support all the work Contrast has harvested in Launch Center Pro over the years and to avoid thinking about another subscription.

Now let's dig into the new features of Launch Center Pro 3.0 and where they fit into the IOS automation world after shortcuts.

NFC Triggers

Launch Center Pro extends the app's repertoire of custom triggers to launch actions with NFC stickers that can be purchased directly from the contrast store that opens in -app with the Safari View Controller (a 5-pack Launch Center sticker The Pro Icon costs $ 5 plus shipping). Once you have scanned a sticker with iPhone, iOS will receive a notification wherever you are (even on the lock screen) which you must tap to open Launch Center Pro and automatically trigger the associated actions. [19659043] NFC stickers utilize the Core NFC, launched with iOS 11, and was enhanced in iOS 12 with the ability to hold a device near a compatible NFC tag and has a third party app drive code in the background. In the case of Launch Center Pro, this means that you can keep your iPhone near a sticker from anywhere on the system, and the app is instantly triggered by a notification that serves as a hopping point to launch Launch Center Pro. Scanning an NFC tag on iOS 12 takes a second; In addition to the notification, you will also feel a subtle haptic pressure.

To add NFC as a trigger to an action, open the action editing screen and select NFC stickers under Options. Then click the + button in the top right corner and iOS will retrieve the original NFC scan user interface provided to the applications of the system. Once scanned, a sticker can be assigned a name (like "nightstand" or "wallet") and more importantly related to actions. If you associate more than one action with a sticker, the app asks you to select an action from a list after scanning a sticker. Actions that have an associated NFC sticker have a small NFC slider next to their icon, indicating that they can be triggered by scanning a sticker.

I love the idea of ​​mixing iOS automation with the physical world through NFC stickers and iBeacons (which has long been supported by Launch Center Pro) and I like how polished and seamlessly implemented in Launch Center Pro. I also think it's annoying that contrast prevents generic NFC stickers from working with Launch Center Pro for now – you have to purchase the official from the Contrast Store, as other stickers will not work out of the box. I would like to buy a dozen cheap NFC stickers from Amazon and use them with the app, but I can respect the idea of ​​expanding revenue streams through official accessories and goods. It helps these stickers are small, and in the colored version they have the beautiful new rocket icon designed by Michael Flarup. According to Barnard, they decided to free up their own stickers "to make it easy for people to use this feature without having to buy an [NFC] encoder" but they plan to document NFC encoding to use some NFC stickers in future. 19659046] I have used NFC stickers to trigger Launch Center Pro actions that launch shortcuts (in the shortcut folder). After thinking about this feature for a while, I realized that there are certain types of shortcuts i need to run when I do something or that is linked to a particular area of ​​the house or time of day.

For example, I attached a sticker to my microphone stand so that when I'm recording a podcast, I can scan it and Launch Center Pro will run my shortcut to start a Toggl timer for the show I'm in the process of to pick up. The sticker makes a physical object into a context that becomes a semi-automatic trigger.

Likewise, I hid a sticker under my nightstand; When I relax in the bedroom with my boyfriend at night, I can scan the sticker and run my command shortcut, which contains a variety of mood lighting HomeKit scenes, actions to play iTunes playlists from my Mac mini to our HomePods, and Homebridge commands to set our TV to specific channels or inputs. Thanks to NFC stickers, I save a few seconds when I look for these shortcuts, and most of all, the sticker works as a physical reminder that I will run a shortcut when I work on a specific task.

As someone who is also experimenting with launching triggering shortcuts with an iBeacon in the car via Launch Center Pro, the idea of ​​NFC triggers that I can place the house very appealing to me. Contrast did a good job of implementing this advanced feature, which is both useful and fun to experiment with thanks to the gorgeous character of stickers.

Multiple forms

One of the reasons I believe that Launch Center Pro still has a Place as an add-on to shortcuts, it supports background editors like plans, beacons, and location changes. Until Apple bounces a native solution to run specific shortcuts automatically based on environmental factors, Launch Center Pro is the best option to trigger shortcuts almost automatically without having to manually run them.

With Version 3.0, Contrast has expanded the intelligent app scheduling feature to support multiple scheduled triggers for date and time with repeat options. You can now add more schedules to trigger an action at different times throughout the day, week or month. Each schedule will burn off a local alert on your device, which once lost, launch Launch Center Pro and perform the action. Schedulations can also repeat, like calendar events or reminders: You can choose to never repeat a schedule, or repeat it every hour, on specific days, weekly and monthly. This allows you to create schedules, such as running at 2 pm and 6 pm every day except Saturday and Sunday.

I have never used schedules in Launch Center Pro, but I can see how they can be useful for people who need routine to perform certain actions in the app or launch shortcuts. If your iOS automation workflow requires such granularity and control, the new advanced scheduling features alone may be well worth the price of the upgrade.

Siri Shortcuts

The third remarkable addition to Launch Center Pro 3.0 is integration with Siri shortcuts in iOS 12. As you can imagine, you can now associate a personal Siri statement with an action with the system's "Add to Siri "dialog; When called in Siri, the expression will open Launch Center Pro and automatically perform the action.

There is a lot of overlap with the shortcut application in this case, and again, this feature will only be useful if you want an easier way to trigger Launch Center Pro actions that can not be replicated in the shortcut folder. Because I mostly use Launch Center Pro as a visual dashboard to quickly run shortcuts (which already has its own Siri statement) I have not found a good reason to add Siri shortcuts to Launch Center Pro yet, but it's nice to have the opportunity

And more

There are a few other new features in Launch Center Pro worth mentioning:

A true black theme. For a moment, Launch Center Pro 3.0 does not look different from its predecessor. However, if you enable the true black theme on an OLED iPhone, it will cause the grid background to disappear so you get the smallest version of Launch Center Pro to date. It looks great and I like how this theme emphasizes icons that are easier to identify.

Import shortcuts. Contrast seems to be aware that many users will rely on Launch Center Pro as a shortcut startup and make the process easier by giving them a way to quickly import a shortcut to and create an action for the. Thanks to a custom shortcut that can be downloaded into Launch Center Pros settings, you can select a shortcut from the shortcut application and make it a launcher for Launch Center Pro.

With a fine detail, this method will even retain the original shortcut icon again in Launch Center Pro, thanks to a new icon parameter for launching : // x-callback url / import to import actions. This means that it's now possible to create your own Launch Center Pro actions with custom icons from outside the app, which I consider to be a potential improvement for the icon creator shortcut.

Launch Center Pro 3.0

Aside from the changes to the business model and the universal download, Launch Center Pro 3.0 is not dramatically different from the old version of the app. (Our comprehensive guide to Launch Center Pro 2.0 is still very important today.) NFC stickers, advanced scheduling options, and Siri shortcuts are a regular add-on to the app, but they do not take basic care for Launch Center Pro – which may not need a thought to begin with. At the same time, this update does not resolve long-term issues of the app that I liked to look better for this release: in addition to the lack of an iPad update, features such as interactive lists and messages are still difficult to edit once they've been added to an action; In the future, I'd like to see Contrast move away from fast URLs and simple text variables as much as possible, and embrace the visual programming known to Workflow, which is now a pin of iOS automation thanks to shortcuts.

As I said, I'm glad that Launch Center Pro is back, as it's still the easiest and fastest way to launch actions and shortcuts on an iOS device. The ability to integrate physical NFC tags as triggers adds a new dimension to the app, and I'm especially pleased to create custom launchers with my own icons. More importantly, Launch Center Pro is currently the most flexible option when it comes to running shortcuts with more advanced personal triggers than those offered by Apple in the shortcut folder. Until Apple gives a native "auto run" functionality for shortcuts, Launch Center Pro's alerts and actions are the closest we can get to a fully automated environment on iOS, and for what I applaud Contrast's decision to expand this aspect of the app. [19659065] With a subscription model and a unified app over iPhone and iPad, I hope Contrast has created a new foundation for Launch Center Pros's future. The app is back on the iPhone homepage and iPad dock, and I'm excited to see what's in the store for 2019.

Launch Center Pro 3.0 is available on the App Store.


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