App Review: Streaks — Rewarding You for Repetitive Behavior

[appreview]
title=Streaks
image=http://gigapple.wordpress.com/files/2009/03/picture-111.png
price=$2.99
url=http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=298996512&mt=8
rating=silver
[/appreview]

A calendar specifically designed for tracking your goals, Streaks aims to join the pantheon of excellent iPhone productivity apps.

Both the touch and the iPhone, the latter in particular, are ideal platforms for productivity tools. The connected nature of the pocketable Apple devices means we can be grabbing all sorts of data about our daily lives — processing, tracking and taking action.

This latest productivity app, Streaks, is an interesting offering in that it totes only one feature — tracking a repeated task on a day-to-day basis. The objective in using the app seems to be to motivate the user in to staying on course and so gives a serious boost to productivity.

Winning Streak

Once installed, Streaks takes moments to configure — you simply name your first calendar and then get tracking. Naming and creating new calendars is as simple as tapping the in-app settings icon and adding a new calendar.

Essentially the app is designed for those times in life when you need to ensure you’re repeating one task — the same task — on a daily basis. I wanted to make sure I work on my album everyday and also setup another calendar to encourage me to tweet on a daily basis.

I tested Streaks by tracking my Twitter use (ensuring I try to tweet on a daily basis), although more common uses could be tracking your daily run or exercise, a daily study or revision regime, or even as an aid for quitting smoking.

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Each task you wish to track is given its own dedicated calendar. Each day, you simply load up the app and mark the calendar (by tapping today’s date) to indicate you’ve completed the task. The app gets exciting when you start to generate various stats related to each task.

Task Statistics

Displayed prominently on each calendar is the current streak and the longest streak. It’s a nice touch that highlights the app’s usefulness as a motivational device. Stats geeks can delve further in to the sea of numerical goodness via the list icon at the top right.

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The in-depth stats screen provides further detail for the current and longest streak — displaying specifically which month/day the streaks began and ended. There’s also a potentially handy readout of past streaks, perhaps useful in showing when you may have been at your most productive.

Looks & Features

The app looks great, and yet take a closer look and you’ll see it’s incredibly light on features. The lack of features is a good thing, though; it’s less convoluted and therefore allows for the user to be much more focused on their tasks rather than grappling for control of the app.

The settings menu provides access to basic calendar management and the choice between two themes: Paper and Chalkboard. The Chalkboard theme seems a tad gloomy in comparison to the former, however it’s still a definite plus to be able to choose between two skins.

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When first trying the app, it wasn’t immediately clear as to how to swap between multiple calendars. After much tapping, dragging and pinching, I discovered that simply dragging the current calendar up the screen slides the next one in to view — not so intuitive, but quite satisfying in practice.

Another nice touch to Streaks is the use of icon badges. Streaks will actually display the current streak on your primary calendar as a number on the app icon. It’s a great way of keeping the user informed and engaged with the app even when it’s not in use.

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Quotidian Quest

The developer claims that the app can be used in less than two minutes, intended to be used daily. I wouldn’t disagree with this — it is indeed very simple to use — however I wonder if there’s enough meat on the bones of this concept to hold the target audience’s interest.

I’d imagine that the kind of person who uses Streaks feels that they need a tool to help them in becoming habitual about completing certain tasks. These people might just be busy, or they might be prize procrastinators, whatever the case, they need that extra boost when in comes to integrating certain tasks in to their daily routine.

It seems somewhat odd, therefore, to further convolute someone’s daily routine by adding in another tool, and thus another task — that of using Streaks — to simply keep score of the various objectives the user has.

There are also several improvements that I’d like to see in future updates to make it truly enhance a daily routine. Specifically, Streaks should do more to take advantage of the iPhone’s connectivity — mailing the user with congratulation notes on successful long streaks and nudging the user if they’ve stopped focusing on a specific task.

Summing Up

The app’s aim is admirable — in essence it makes you feel good for staying on track with a given daily task — and its execution is undoubtedly charming. It’s just that, despite the concept’s excellent execution, this clearly isn’t a tool that will prove effective for everyone.

However, there are going to be those that could certainly do with tracking tasks in this very specific way. And, for those that could use a tool like this, I think Streaks could potentially be a wonderful motivational device.

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