A piece of software starts out like a pearl: There’s a tiny core of functionality inside that does what it’s supposed to do. If it’s a word processor, it lets you write stuff; if it’s a music player, it lets you play some music. And then stuff starts getting added; your word processor can suddenly access outside data or process images; your music player can suddenly play video, too. These sort of features creeping in, makes software bloated, buggy, slow, or just more resource-hungry.
But some applications, few and far between, manage to resist the temptation and remain narrowly focused on just one thing. They get exceptional at that one specific thing, and that’s their greatness. Ovo, a free timer for Android, is one such rare example.
What Ovo Does
It’s an Android timer app.
That’s all it does. It counts time backwards, and lets you know when time is up. It doesn’t have multiple timers, timer presets, notification templates, or vibration patterns. It also can’t pull in a music stream off the Internet and play it when the time is up. It’s just a timer – and often, that’s exactly what I need.
Ovo is very easy to operate with a single finger. Start it, put your finger anywhere on the screen, and start rotating it clockwise (as if you’re winding up the timer):
A thin external arc will appear indicating your drag gesture. Within the arc, you’ll see a thick red and white arc indicating the timer itself, and inside of that, you get the duration you’re setting (10 minutes, 30 seconds above), as well as a quick indication of the time in which Ovo is going to ring. But keep winding the timer a bit more, and you’ll soon get this:
When you get to the 60-minute mark, the thin “winding bar” becomes red, and you can’t continue. It other words, Ovo is for short reminders, not for setting a timer that will run for weeks until your big event (that’s what calendars are for). In an email, Ovo creator Pimm Hogeling shared how forcefully some users requested Ovo to keep going after the 60-minute mark… and how he decided to deny this request after all, in order to keep the application focused. I think this is one of the big challenges software projects face: To decide which user requests are justified, and which ones will simply dilute your product and drive you off-track. I applaud Pimm’s decision in this case.
Speech Recognition, Pausing, Restarting, and Rewinding
At the top-right corner above, you’ll notice Android’s familiar speech recognition icon. Tap it, and you can just tell Ovo something like “fifteen minutes.” In my testing, it worked flawlessly – even accurate times like “two minutes, thirty five seconds.” Ovo chimed a confirmation tone, and started counting.
Next to the microphone, the “reset” icon lets you begin the countdown anew. To pause your timer midway, just tap in the middle of the circle:
The middle pad will glow momentarily, and Ovo will pause. Tap again to resume.
Finally, when the timer is up, you may want to restart it and count down the same duration again (useful when baking several batches of cookies, for example). Ovo makes this easy, too:
Just tap the circle, and it’ll start again (this was a ten-second timer just to show you the feature).
If Ovo had a dense settings dialog, well, it wasn’t the polished application I was making it out to be. Fortunately, there are just a handful of these:
Most of these let you control what Ovo does when the timer runs out. You can pick what sound to play (and whether to play one at all), whether or not you want it to vibrate, and if it should continue playing or vibrating until you touch the screen. You can also ask Ovo to keep the screen on while counting down – very useful if you’re using it for cooking and want to keep an eye on the timer without having to touch your screen with messy hands.
Bottom Line: Less Is More
If I could make one request from Ovo’s creators, it would be: “Pleas, please, resist the temptation to add features.” But given their tenacity and focus so far, I get the feeling the need for minimalism is something they already understand very well.
Ovo’s clean interface, intuitive operation, and general lack of bloat gleaned it a spot on our prestigious list of Best Android Apps. Are there other beautifully minimalistic apps that should be featured on the list? Let me know in the comments!
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