A new application can’t do everything right off the bat. The developer must make a hard choice: Should they spend time cramming in as many features as possible so that the app is as useful as can be, or should they go with a lean application that doesn’t try to do too much, but is a joy to interact with? In other words, form, or function? For apps like Titanium Backup and Tasker, functionality comes first, without a doubt — and that works, for a serious system utility. But more and more Android developers are realizing the value of beautiful apps like minimalistic timer Ovo, weather app Eye in The Sky, and other apps that give iOS apps a run for their money. Flib is a free unit converter for Android that sits firmly in this latter camp: With a flat aesthetic, large controls, and (mostly) well-designed interactions, it’s one of the prettiest apps I’ve seen of late.
A Unit Converter As a Luxury Item
Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first: You do not need a unit converter. Google features built-in, seamless unit conversion, so you can submit queries like “5lbs in kg” and get instant results back. The result even comes with nice little input fields letting you quickly input other conversions. So no, you don’t need Flib. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to want it:
I don’t know about you, but when I saw this it made me want to lick the screen, just a little bit. The conversion types offered are very clear, and scrolling down also reveals a time converter, in case you’re wondering how many seconds are there in a month (2,629,743 — you’re welcome).
To test it out, I tapped the base conversion icon:
What you can’t see here is the transition between the two screens, which is accompanied by a smooth and very Windows-phone like “tile flip” animation. The conversion result is updated as you type, of course.
This screen also introduces an annoying UI failing: Flib is not smart about the Back button. The Back button is one of Android’s most annoying and unpredictable controls, because you’re never quite sure what it’s going to do before you tap it. Sometimes it takes you one screen back; sometimes it ejects you out of the app; some apps even have you tap it twice, just to make sure you really do want to exit. With Flib, it should have been an obvious choice: The Back button should bring you back to the main screen. Instead, it boots you out of the app. Annoying.
Settings and Colors
If plum violet is not your color, fret not: Flib can easily change shades. It doesn’t go in for anything as utilitarian as a color picker or a palette, but tapping the Color button in the Settings screen flips between several possible colors, each quite alluring in its own way.
The settings screen is certainly pretty, and is clear for the most part. The only thing not really clear is the “d.p” button, adorned with a Morse-like icon. Turns out this is the decimal precision setting: You can specify just how precise you want Flib to be. By default, you get three points of precision:
It’s Good, But It’s Not Holo
Holo is the visual style introduced with Android 4.0. It’s flat, angular, and simple — words that describe Flib quite well. But Holo isn’t just a general look: Holo apps are supposed to behave in certain, predictable ways. For example, there should be bars for navigation and menu items; tapping the Menu button on your device should actually open up the menu; there’s a specific icon for the menu (a “tri-dot”). It’s a shame Flib didn’t follow through with a complete and cohesive Holo experience — it’s absolutely gorgeous, it’s fun to use, but it’s also unpredictable in annoying ways if you’re used to other modern Android apps.
Last but not least, Flib works offline, too. This is actually its one big functional advantage over Google Search: You don’t need a connection to use it.
Will you be giving Flib a shot? Do you know of a more beautiful unit converter for Android? Let me know in the comments!