iPod touch Fans Super Moderator Emiritus, Skylar Cantu, recently released his music controller PocketTouch on the App Store. I was lucky enough to receive a promotional code to try out and review this brand new app.
PocketTouch has had nearly three quarters of a million downloads since it’s original release as a jailbreak app in 2007. Now it’s finally made it to the App Store, but is it as good as the hype claims? At 4.5 stars we think so.
Click through the jump and read all about it!
PocketTouch claims to be the first music controller for iPhone and iPod Touch. In 2007, it was released to the Jailbreak community as a huge success, and now, it’s finally available on the App Store – no longer do we need to perform complex and risky jailbreaks just to take advantage of this app!
So what does PocketTouch actually do? In essence, it’s an alternative music controller for your iPod. It lets you navigate and play your music through a fresh, new interface, using gestures and swipes to control playback with ease. With it’s touch-based, large, clear interface, it’s easy to change tracks whilst driving your car, simple to adjust the volume whilst working out, and convienient to not have to remove your hands from your pockets on a cold winter day, just to browse a playlist.
PocketTouch can even brag about inspiring Apple to add features; in fact, Skylar claims that PocketTouch incorporated the ‘Shake to Shuffle’ feature long before Apple added it to the Nanos, then iPods/iPhones. On jailbroken devices it was even the first of its kind to enable control, like the Shake To Shuffle, outside of the App when it was closed. Unfortunately App Store restrictions don’t let Apps run minimized, so this is sadly out of the question for our App Store version.
According to Google Maps, I have a 2 mile walk to school every day from my house, with which I would go insane without my iPod. And with the winter days approaching us (at least in this part of the world, anyway), I was thankful to have a copy of PocketTouch to save my digits from freezing. So in order to give myself some preparation for this review, I took PocketTouch out on the road.
Before I get down to the nitty-gritty PocketTouch features, I’ll give a quick report of how I found PocketTouch during my walk.
I used it with my iPod on the way there and back, totalling a charming 4 miles of tunes.
I started the PocketTouch app as I walked out of my front door. This was the first time I’d seen it and it’s interface. Now call me silly, but, at first I was mildly confused. The black screen on the left is what I saw – so my first piece of criticism is that PocketTouch incorporates no instructions. I had no idea that I was meant to launch the iPod app first, I assumed that PocketTouch would have built-in music playing controls (which it does – but none that are apparently obvious to the new user).
To provide constructive criticism, I think it would be really helpful if PocketTouch automatically detected when no music was playing and provided a brief overview of instructions (i.e. “Start your iPod music to begin using PocketTouch. Swipe left to advance a track…” etc.). Otherwise, there is simply a black screen, that may as well be put to use in assisting the new PocketTouch user.
After quitting the app, launching my music, and opening PocketTouch again, I was greeted with the next screenshot, showing Daft Punk’s music playing.
Tada! My iPod played the song, and PocketTouch displayed it onscreen. How nice.
Clicking the ‘i’ button in the corner, I was presented with the Settings screen. A snazzy transition brought me there, a nice rippling screen effect. This is good eye candy, but can sometimes make the interface feel a little slow and sluggish. The Settings screen had three options: “Appearance”, “Gestures”, and “Shaker”.
So looking at the Appearance screen I have the options to:
- Show Track Info: displays what track is playing currently.
- Random Transitions: Turning random transitions on or off adjusts how PocketTouch changes the song name, artist etc. when a new track plays. Variations include fading, page-curling, and rippling.
- Disable Auto-lock: This useful feature stops your iPod from locking itself. Whilst useful in the car, in a pocketed scenario you may wish to turn this feature off or lock your iPod manually to stop any accidental finger-presses.
- Volume HUD: Turning this on or off changes whether, when adjusting the volume through gestures, the standard Apple volume indicator appears. If set to off, PocketTouch’s slide bar adjusts to indicate volume.
The next part is where I think PocketTouch takes off: Theming. Beautiful, on-the-fly theming.
Clicking the shiny ‘Themes’ button currently brings up 5 different themes: AlbumArt, Bluebird, NightGarden, PTWinterNightSky, and PocketTouch. I’m hoping in the future Skylar will add some more themes to this app, since the ones we have so far, I really like!
I’ll walk you through them:
Bluebird displays a lovely, uh, blue, bird, along with your music details.
NightGarden shows some great colours for displaying your iPod in a darkened room.
PTWinterNightSky ‘s soft colours are quite nice. Although with the big space, I don’t see why a small albumart preview couldn’t be placed.
The PocketTouch theme is the plain black one you saw earlier. Now, I’ve saved the best until last: AlbumArt. AlbumArt features an awesome ‘Magic’ background, that automatically adjusts the background colour based on your Album Art’s main colours. I have NO idea how this works, but it is awesome, and I have yet to find an album it looks bad with.
Take a look at the Weezer album art on the right. This garish green colour is analysed by PocketTouch, and a harmonious darker shade is displayed on the background. Awesome! Another great example is the La Roux artwork displayed earlier.
Themes and customisation aside, the most important part of the review I’m sure lies in the actual functionality of PocketTouch.
As a music controller, PocketTouch excels. I have tried a handful of similar apps but none have ever been as customisable as PocketTouch is.
About five minutes into my journey to school I became bored of the song I was listening to. The air outside was cold and, with my shoulder bag cutting across my chest I usually find it a pain fiddling to get my iPod out of my pocket, untangle the headphone leads and finally control it.
Luckily all I had to do was push the lock button. Except, uh, there was the slight difficulty of having to Slide to Unlock. And believe me, Sliding to Unlock when your iPod is in your pocket is tricky stuff when you can’t see the screen. To passers by, I must have looked quite a sight, with my arm flailing round and a confused look on my face as I tried in vain to find it….
Embarrassment aside, I realise that although those of us who are Jailbroken may be able to find a fix for this annoyance, the rest of us may just have to cope with this and there is perhaps nothing Skylar can do. Whilst he obviously has the Disable Autolock feature, it doesn’t help when it comes to accidental pocketed finger-taps. However, I cannot really criticse Skylar for this since it is an Apple feature/annoyance at times…
After actually Sliding to Unlock, all it required was a quick swipe of my finger anywhere across the screen and PocketTouch began the next track. I was surprised at how easy it really was, and I simply pressed the lock button and I was good to go.
Toggling tracks backwards is the same matter, just swipe in the other direction. It will start the current track from the beginning, or, if you swipe again in quick succession, go back one track to play the previous song. I discovered too that you can adjust the volume with a simple upward or downward swipe. It’s a more ‘precise’ volume control than Apple’s vol. up/down buttons, as it lets you get gritty with some actual percentages – in the screenshots, next to the ‘i’ you’ll notice a number – this is the volume percentage, with 100 being loudest and 0 being muted. I only realised this much later, in fact – so perhaps a clearer indicator of what this number is (even something as simple as, say, adding a “%” – like ’56%’ would make things a little clearer).
To pause a track, a simple double-tap does the job.
So, a summary of all gestures:
- Swipe to the right – Next Track
- Swipe to the left – Start of current track
- Two swipes to the left – Previous track
- Double-tap – Pause or resume playback
- Swipe up – Volume up
- Swipe down – Volume down
Don’t like any of these presets? Take a look at the Gestures settings:
The Gestures configuration is highly customisable, and allows for all sorts of variety for those who prefer to change things to suit them. You can enable taps on or off, or set whether you like doubletap pauses. You can enable or disable track swipes left and right, or volume swipes, up and down.
‘Reverse T. Swipes’ is a feature I really like – to me, swiping to the right for the next track seems a little illogical – it feels to me like I’m pushing a track away forwards, as if it were to come next (although perhaps this is simply my left-hander’s perspective)… Turning on Reverse T-Swipes makes it the go the other way (so you swipe to the left instead).
‘Reverse Vol Swipes’ does the same, but for volume up and down.
‘Swap x/y axes’ makes swiping left or right adjust the volume, and up or down adjust the playing track. I can see this being useful with video docks that sit your iPod sideways, or if you’re using your iPod horizontally.
Enabling taps gives you the option to use screen taps for pausing and play. There’s also a ‘Double Tap To Pause’ option to enable either single taps or double taps to stop and restart the audio.
PocketTouch features a ‘shaker’ feature. It’s basically identical to Apple’s Shake-To-Shuffle feature, however, PocketTouch claims to have incorporated this feature months before Apple ever though of it – well done, Skylar!
There’s not a lot for me to say about this Shaker. You have options to turn it on or off, and you have options to make it advance to the next track, or shuffle to a random track. All standard stuff. Unfortunately, thanks to Apple the shaker option won’t work when the device is playing (but locked) – silly Apple.
Overall, my half hour journey was made quite simple thanks to PocketTouch. It’s clear, simple controls let me change tracks and volume without actually taking the iPod out of my pocket once throughout the journey. Easy, helpful, and fun.
Whilst in-app, I later discovered it is possible to select tracks in an iPod-like interface without leaving the app first (again, something that needs to be made clearer).
To do this, a double-tap of the top black bar brings up a list of songs.
Also tap, tap and hold will bring up a playlist editor so you can create your own playlists on the fly.
It wasn’t until I got home and checked out the PocketTouch website that I realised I can actually edit my themes! I think it’s something Skylar should look at as it’s not made clear that I can actually edit themes without learning this from the website.
The reason I missed it is because editing themes requires a tap on a very small arrow button, that seems like a part of the Apple interface, and not part of any significant feature in PocketTouch.
You should see on the picture on the left, the Themes selection menu. The currently selected theme is AlbumArt, marked on the blue bar beneath the top black bar. In order to access the themes editor you need to tap that tiny arrow on the end of the thin blue AlbumArt bar.
My fat fingers couldn’t do it for the first couple of tries, much to my frustration. Eventually I did it, but this clearly needs to be clearer – perhaps a right-hand button labeled ‘Edit’ or similar (e.g. symmetrical to the ‘Appearance’ back menu button, but on the right hand side…).
Once I’d fathomed it out, I gave the theme editor a little test. There’s nothing bad to say about it. It just works. With the theme editor and it’s slightly garish background, you can edit the background colour of the main theme, the StatusBar colour, and the Track info background.
There are four options for editing text colours (main text, main text shadow, other text, and other text shadows). Clicking any of these menu choices brings up a popup pretty much identical to the left.
You simply drag the sliders about to create your colour combo. I would say offer smaller sliders and a few ‘preset’ colours, the most common ones perhaps, in order to save users from faffing about for ages with RGB sliders. Small criticism, but would definitely save time for dedicated themers.
Now, I’ve covered pretty much every feature of Skylar’s wondeful PocketTouch. Time for some ratings!
PocketTouch Review Ratings
I am going to be using the MR Team’s Official Review Scoring System for analysis of this product.
I believe PocketTouch is packed full of features. It’s the most customisable music controller I have found so far. There are a couple of kinks here and there that need ironing out, but these are few and every feature I tried worked perfectly.
4.5/5 – Excellent
GUI (Graphical User Interface)
The GUI has some fantastic merits including themes, theme editing, and magic backgrounds. However I found it to be quite unfriendly to some users, e.g. tiny buttons that are hard to click (the ‘i’ and entering the theme editor), and it often lagged quite a bit whilst changing menu screens.
3.5/5 – Good
The review system’s ‘audio’ category refers to ‘quality and variety of sound effects, music, and voices’. I feel it can’t be applied to this app, since all Audio is iPod-based and as such PocketTouch provides no sounds of its own. The Audio category will not be considered for the final score averaging.
N/A – Not applicable to review
PocketTouch is an App that I’ve moved to my first home screen. I’ll be using this daily from now on I think, as it’s an app that really does solve a common problem and make things easier for us all.
5/5 – Unrivaled
Value for Money
For 99 cents, less than a dollar, PocketTouch is, in my opinion, worth it. I have, however, awarded it 4 stars (‘great’), in the hope that we will see more updates, bringing us new themes and improvements. There are loads of PocketTouch themes out there created by the jailbreak community however only a few of these were included in the actual App-store app itself. It’s not really a major flaw, but a small point I would like to see expanded on. In comparison to similar apps, I see a larger feature set for a smaller price. Great stuff in this app.
4/5 – Great
Overall, PocketTouch is a great app with so many merits. I have taken all the scores for each feature, and averaged them off. PocketTouch’s final score is…
4.5/5 – Excellent
Quoted from the scoring system:
“An app in this range is nearly perfect. Almost no bugs, and if any, they are very minor and come in minute numbers. Extremely fun/useful.”
I think this perfectly describes PocketTouch. Well done, Skylar!
To finish with, I will list my final positive and negative points for PocketTouch. Should you buy it or not? If you’re not fussed by any of the negatives listed her, PocketTouch is an app worthy of a place on your springboard.
- Beautiful interface
- Highly customisable to jailbreakers, still quite customisable to non-jailbroken
- Clear, flawless gestures
- Innovative features
- Gesture customisation fits most people’s preferences
- Great value for money
- No bugs that I could find
Room for Improvement
- Interface contains a couple of small, fiddly buttons that are hard to press
- Menus are sometimes laggy
- Switching from the main display to the menu screens sometimes pauses for a few seconds
- Theme editor is over-complex
- Small selection of themes
- Provides little user-feedback – new users need more clear instructions
Despite these few negative points, Skylar’s PocketTouch is a great app that I can see really going on to flourish on the App Store.
What did you think? Leave your comments on the comments thread!
[Note: Skylar Cantu is a forum member and 'Super Moderator Emiritus'. I have made my best effort to write this review in as fair and unbiased a way as possible. I have reviewed this app as I would any other on the App Store.]