Streaks: A hands-on review of the Apple Design Award-winning app

One of the winners of an Apple Design Award at last week's WWDC event was Streaks ($3.99), and for good reason. The app does one job very well -- it tracks up to six tasks that you want to accomplish, gently nudges you to complete them, and then shows you how you've done each day.

The joy of this app is that it's not overdone or overcomplicated like most "to-do-list" apps. Instead of letting you set up a huge, unreachable grocery list of tasks that you're bound to never accomplish, it maxes out at six tasks. Each task can be assigned a well-designed, clean icon so you know at a glance what task you're looking at, and there are hundreds of icons to choose from.

You can choose to reach your goal on specific days of the week, a certain number of days per week (for example, I really don't need to check my blood pressure every day, so I just do it three times per week), or every day. When you have a goal for walking/running a certain distance, the circular icon shows a white border that grows as your distance increases. Once you've reached the goal, that icon turns white. For some goals, you just tap and hold on the icon to show that it's been completed.

The background color for the entire app can be changed to one of a dozen colors, some bright, some muted. All of the backgrounds accentuate the icons nicely. There's also an Apple Watch companion app, which neatly shows the icons for your goals as well as an indication of how you're doing at any particular time. 

Streaks' notifications aren't annoying, either. I've used some apps that get so insistent that you do something that I've eventually removed them from my iPhone. Not so with Streaks, which just reminds you with either a single daily reminder for all tasks together, or provides a reminder for each task. You can turn off reminders altogether, or set them for a particular time. The Streaks app icon shows a traditional notification "bubble" showing how many more of your tasks need to be done that day. I used one of the Watch complications that shows dots to show me what has been accomplished and what needs to be done, and any time I look at the Watch I get a subtle reminder. 

Does it work? Well, like any app designed to create good habits, Streaks is only as effective as you make it. Personally, I found Streaks to be so easy to use that it's fun to push yourself to reach those goals, even if it's something as mundane as one of my daily tasks -- cleaning the cat litter boxes -- and try to keep a streak going.

Once you've been able to turn a goal into a daily habit that becomes second nature, you might consider changing to or adding a new goal. I'm personally only using four goals right now, keeping some open slots for gaining more good habits.

I can see why Streaks won an Apple Design Award, and why the app consistently gains 5-star ratings on the App Store. If there's only one app you buy this month, make it Streaks.