This week's featured app grew out of the developer's love of board games:
"When I was playing board games with friends," Sweden's Arvid Lunnemark told me, "we usually resorted to using pen and paper to keep score. We all thought that there just had to be an app for this. We were right, but we continued to use pen and paper. Why? Because in the end, pen and paper was simpler to deal with than any of the apps [we found]. It frustrated me that pen and paper could trump an iPhone, and as a result, Simple Counter was born."
An app inspired by gaming. How could I pass on that?
Simple Counter ($1.99, universal) has found a place on my gaming table, but its usefulness extends well beyond game night. The fifteen-year-old developer has made a useful, no-look counter that can be used to tally just about anything. Here's my look at Simple Counter for iPhone.
Simple Counter's appearance is no-frills and straight-forward. The app presents a large number on a solid background. You can't determine the color of a counter's background, but each one provides a good contrast to the white numbers.
Simple Counter works in both portrait and landscape orientation. It gets interesting in landscape. You can create an unlimited number of counters (more on that later in this article), and I've found that more than three work best in landscape (see below). Also note that you can only add a new counter while in portrait, as the add button disappears when the phone is rotated to landscape.
Today, I do most of my tallying at the game table. However, a few years ago I worked as a teacher at a residential school for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Back then my colleagues and I took a lot of data as the students worked towards their educational goals. That was tricky with pen and paper, as we had to look away from the student to record a hash mark.
Today I wish I had Simple Counter back then. While watching the student, I could have tapped the screen to record a point of data. Since an audible "pop" confirms each successful recording, I could have kept my eyes where they needed to be.
I could see this being used to record the number of people who pass through a gate at an event, tickets sold, runners crossing a track...or even doing pushups.
"I wanted to count how many [pushups] I could make," Arvid told me, "but I always lost count when I was doing them due to exhaustion. So, I thought, can I use Simple Counter for this?"
"I put my iPhone just so the tip of my nose would touch it on the way down. When doing a push-up, my nose would touch the screen, and would increment a count in Simple Counter. As a good side effect, this setup also forced me to go all the way down to the ground with each push-up, so I couldn’t cheat anymore."
Simple Counter as fitness coach. There's something I hadn't thought of.
A few things to watch out for
I'm quite happy with Simple Counter, and a few additions and changes would make it even better. First and foremost, data export. I'd be really happy if I could export my data as a CSV file via email or Dropbox.
Additionally, the support for unlimited counters is nice, but unnecessary. Who's going to have 30 counters going at once? My iPhone 5c's screen can display six counters at once. After that, I must scroll to reach them all. This will vary from screen size to screen size, of course, but still. That's a lot of counters.
Finally -- and this is a niche request, I know -- when there are just two counters on the screen, I'd like to be able to flip one 180 degrees. For example, when I'm playing Magic: The Gathering and using Simple Counter to track the life total of two players, one of us must look at his or her score upside-down. It's not a big issue, but since Simple Counter is otherwise so perfect for gaming, this would be a nice option.
This is a very nice app and a great effort from such a young developer. I was glad to chat with Arvid about his inspiration and experiences, and we wish him luck as he advances in the wonderful world of iOS app development.
Are you an individual developer, or do you work in a two- or three-person shop? Let us know, as we love to feature the work of smaller developers.