Day One’s iOS 7 Update Is a Keeper

Once in a while, an app comes along that’s so good at what it does that it’s hard to believe its low price. These apps become essentials, favourites, apps we use nearly every day to document the things that matter. For me, Day One is one of those apps. It’s an iPhone app that’s as important to me as the built-in camera, one that changes the way I live and gives me some much-needed time for reflection every day. It’s an app that has changed the way I live my life.

I was so excited to give the iOS 7 update to Day One a shot and see what the team has brought to the app. I wasn’t disappointed. Read on to find out what makes Day One such a winner, and how it changes the way we look at making journals.

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A Digital Diary

For me, Day One is two things: a place to deposit moments in life that I want to remember, but keep private, and a place to muse about my feelings, thoughts, and insecurities. The former is becoming increasingly important to me: in our ever-connected world, I want a place where I can quickly share a photo and a short thought without sharing it with everybody on Twitter. The latter, as well, is important for my own personal development. It’s a way for me to recharge and really think about my past and future. In other words, it’s just like a regular journal — but digital.

Because Day One is a digital diary, it allows for a lot of features that are cumbersome with a regular diary. Weather is a great example. As boring as it sounds, weather is one of those things that can shape a story. If it’s a cold, miserable day, it’s a lot easier to forgive my grumblings in Day One than it is otherwise.

Day One makes writing my journal fun.

Day One makes writing my journal fun.

Some other things that I really like about Day One are photos and tags. Adding photos is a piece of cake, and the app fetches metadata from photos, adding their time and date stamp automatically, as well as importing the weather conditions on the day the photo was taken. So if you want to write about an event that happened a couple months ago, it’s a piece of cake to do that and still have an accurate idea of what that day was like.

The Tags feature is really easy to appreciate as well. Tags are searchable, so it’s easy to search for only specific topics if that’s what you’re looking for. I used to be in a band and still have a propensity to write the occasional lyric. Instead of saving them in Notes.app, I often just throw them in Day One and tag them as “Lyrics” now. This way, they’re easy for me to refer to without every feeling like they’re anything less than totally private. (And they’re terrible lyrics to begin with, so they’re never going to see the light of day.)

I love how the app organizes photo posts.

I love how the app organizes photo posts.

One of the other important features of the app is that it allows you to export all your information to a .txt or .pdf file, should you ever decide to stop using the app or leave the Apple ecosystem. Just like a paper diary, thanks to these file formats, I’m going to guess my Day One journal will outlive me, and that’s a comforting thought.

The New Features

Most users of Day One will be familiar with these features, and more interested in what the update brings to the table. By far, the most interesting feature is the activity tracking. This holds a little more weight for those of us with an iPhone 5S (I don’t have one yet), but it’s neat to see Day One integrating the new iPhone’s features. This also has some really interesting potential for the future. I’d love to see Day One not only counts my steps, but also measures my sleep activity should I be wearing any of the world’s popular fitness accessories (like a Fitbit or a Nike Fuelband). The app would have to integrate with these accessory makers’ APIs, but I think it would make a fine addition.

The app makes it easy to track your activity, even if you're on an iPad. (Although step tracking only works on an iPhone 5S.)

The app makes it easy to track your activity, even if you’re on an iPad. (Although step tracking only works on an iPhone 5S.)

Interestingly, all the app needs is the M7 chip to fetch data, but it’s obviously designed to work best with an iPhone 5S. As an owner of one of those fandangled new iPad Airs, I can tell you that using an iPad Air to measure your daily activity movement wouldn’t be practical or an efficient use of your time. This is probably why the iPad version of the app doesn’t incorporate daily step counting. For obvious reasons, I’m okay with that.

That doesn’t mean that owners of older iPhones are out of date, though. On both my iPhone and my iPad, I’m still able to choose what I’ve been doing today. The app lets me choose between Stationary, Walking, Running, Eating, Biking, Automotive, and Flying. Most of the time, I’ll be choosing Stationary. It’s interesting to me that Flying is an option, but travelling is not. I also want to point out the lovely disclaimer in the app: “say NO to distracted driving.” It’s a nice, personality-filled touch. I like the attention to detail, but I do regret that we live in a world where that sort of thing can’t go unsaid.

There’s three other features I want to discuss, hopefully with some brevity. The first is the app’s new Music feature. With the tap of a button, you can reveal what you are currently listening to as you write the journal entry. This comes with a couple disappointing caveats. The first is that it currently only works with the stock Music app. I’d love it if I could include what I’m listening to in Rdio, my preferred music app, or even a podcast or what I’m watching on Youtube. I’d love to see a future update to Day One that captures the TED Talk you’re listening to with a hyperlink to easily help you listen to it again.

The app allows you take a closer look at photos, which look great on the iPad's large display.

The app allows you take a closer look at photos, which look great on the iPad’s large display.

Finally, the app also includes a new weather option and background syncing via Dropbox (iCloud excluded). The background syncing is self-explanatory, and a perfectly good reason to start using Dropbox instead of iCloud for your journals. The new weather option is to use Forecast.io instead of HAMweather. According to the app:

Forecast.io provides more accurate weather information in the US and the UK. Regardless of the selection, Forecast.io will always be used for historical weather beyond 10 days.

In my area of Canada, neither Forecast.io or HAMweather are perfectly accurate. I’m only a couple short hours from the US border, though, so I’m using Forecast.io for the time being. Weather here is so erratic that I’ve learned to accept that my iPhone will never be fully accurate, and that’s okay.

If you’re wondering about the Mac version of the app, the developers have said on Twitter that this information will likely be incorporated into an update there next month, so it won’t be long until all your computing devices have access to your activity information and music listening habits.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said this was all that was new.

The iOS 7 Update

Beyond this incredibly-rich feature update, Day One has also been redesigned from the ground up — even the passcode screen is using a different layout. Not only is it a complete reimagining of how Day One should look, it makes it feel completely different. Day One now embraces all of Apple’s current design paradigms, for better or for worse — including swipe to go back — and I think it comes out the better for it.

Even the Calendar view has been completely revamped for iOS 7.

Even the Calendar view has been completely revamped for iOS 7.

The easiest comparison I can make to the old Day One is to say that it looks like the app has gone on a bit of a diet. I think it works for the app. Day One has always been focused on content, though, and its unique personality hasn’t been lost in the transition. In some ways, its colour scheme has been accentuated by the transition to the new iOS.

Finally, the app has now been configured for 64-bit. On my iPad Air, the app is snazzy as all get out. I wouldn’t have described it as slow before, but I feel right at home in it on my new device. On my first-generation iPad mini, the app’s performance hasn’t changed at all, and I can’t complain.

The app's opening passcode reveals how shockingly different, but also familiar, the whole app feels.

The app’s opening passcode reveals how shockingly different, but also familiar, the whole app feels.

The new Day One is at once immediately familiar, but also form-fitting. For me, Day One’s new design incorporates the best of iOS 7 and leaves the rest behind. It’s an update that blows the rest of the competition away by keeping the focus on the user and on the user’s privacy. If iOS 7 can be described as iOS 6 without all the visual heaviness, then Day One’s new design is as magical as your favourite pair of jeans still fitting after you finally lose that freshman fifteen.

Day One: My Most Valuable App

This is an update I happily would have paid for again. If Bloom Built were to have released it as a new app and charged an additional $4.99, I would have understood. This is an update that combines a superior new design with valuable new features, like activity tracking, music data, 64-bit processing, and background syncing. For all this value, $4.99 would have been a fair price to pay. Unbelievably, it’s a free update. If you’ve stopped using Day One, now’s the time to start again. If you have yet to try it, now’s the time to give it a shot. Day One is the most valuable app I have on my Apple products, and I think it’s a must-have.


Summary

Day One was my most valuable app before, and this new update not only looks great on iOS 7, but also adds even more functionality to an already-incredible app.

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