For a long time on AppStorm now, I seem to be the resident App.net (ADN) geek. I like trying out and reviewing the apps. I’m really interested in where the platform is going in the future. For those of you who aren’t aware, ADN is a sort-of Twitter alternative that’s totally private (there’s no tracking or advertising). It’s also a backend for a lot of really cool apps.
One of those super-cool apps is Felix, which started out as a feature behemoth and has slowly been coming into its own. It has a beautiful design and, with the update to iOS 7, has really come into its own. For many people, Felix might make ADN worth signing up for. Read on for my thoughts on the new Felix update for iPad.
Exclusively on iOS 7
Felix has been updated to make use of some of the best new technologies in iOS 7, including background updating and swiping to go back (more on that later). In fact, the app is using so many of the new APIs under the hood that it’s exclusively available on the new platform. If you’re still running iOS 6, the option won’t be available to you.
Of course, for most people, this will feel like a refinement more than it will an overhaul. Felix was already very minimalistic and forward-thinking before. It feels like iOS 7 is finally catching up to Felix and not the other way around. The minor design changes fix the status bar and get rid of other small design quibbles left over from the iOS 6 texture factory, but overall, if you’ve been wandering around in iOS 7 for a couple days already, you might not even notice the changes.
Changing How It Works
Most of these aesthetic changes are about how an app feels or looks, but some of the changes in Felix’s 3.0 update change how it actually works. First of all, the swipe to go back gesture has been implemented in Felix 3.0. It sounds like a minor change, and for most apps, it would be.
But for Felix, it’s a little different. If you’re unfamiliar with the app, you might have already noticed a puck in the screenshots. In the past, double-tapping on the puck took you back one screen in the app. That functionality has now been removed. Double-tapping on the puck doesn’t do anything.
Stripping that functionality from the puck isn’t enough though. The puck itself has been greatly simplified. Before, if you had enough of a fine touch, you could swipe the puck from one corner of the screen to the other. It was sort of awkward because swiping up on the puck also created a post, so you had to be careful with your swiping.
Now, swiping up creates a post. Tapping and holding on the puck brings up a number of options, allowing you to select where you want to place the puck on the screen. If you really like having a toolbar on the bottom of the screen, you can implement that here. You can also remove some of what you want displayed in the puck, so I’ve eliminated everything but the essentials. I use Whisper for messaging, so I got rid of those options, but Felix makes a good little messaging system if that’s not your style.
Making Gestures Better
You can now swipe to reply or view threads, and the icons used to illuminate what you’re doing fit in very well with iOS 7’s aesthetic. Swiping a post to the right allows you to reply to it, while swiping it to the left reveals the thread.
The best gesture improvement, though, is definitely the pinch. Previously, if you wanted to view anything related to your profile, you had to tap the puck and select the speedometer-like icon. I never understood the icon and didn’t like how long it ended up taking me to quickly check up on my new followers. Plus, the old screen was very cluttered and sort of ugly.
Now, all you have to do to is pinch anywhere in the app to bring up a pop-up dashboard that lets you get to all the important information you need. This is why I was finally able to remove the bizarre speedometer icon from the puck.
The new dashboard is fantastic. It looks similar regardless of what user you’re checking out. The cover image has a Gaussian blur applied to it and sits behind all your options, which are all there just like before. There’s technically nothing that’s been removed from the list; it’s just been greatly simplified. Even the Search tool is easier to access from this screen.
Revealing Some Flaws
All these great new features do reveal some flaws, though. The toolbar doesn’t blend in with the Gaussian blurs very well, so looking at profiles is a little odd. Tapping on a post and viewing all the details doesn’t look as refined now as it did on iOS 6. What worked perfectly there doesn’t work as perfectly here, for whatever reason.
There are also some minor speed issues with the iPad app. On my iPad mini, the app has gotten slower — especially with searching or going to the Settings. On my third-generation iPad, things are a little better, but not markedly so. The app worked great before, so I suspect these are growing pains that will get fixed in a future update.
I love most of the changes to Felix in version 3.0. This is one app that’s getting better with age from a design standpoint. It’s amazing to me that while the app gets more visually simpler, it doesn’t lose any of its power.
That being said, I’m a little displeased that it’s slower than it used to be. I’m really hoping a fix is coming soon. It’s also a shame that some visual improvements make other untouched parts of the app, like popups that aren’t edge-to-edge, look a little more dated. All in all, the small improvements to the app’s design make major changes in how it works and how it feels to use that I’m largely in love with, and I think most people are going to think it’s a great fit for iOS 7. Felix is still highly recommended as the best iPad app for App.net.
Felix's latest update looks mostly great on iOS 7 — and is easier and more functional than ever before — but it makes some elements of the app look a little dated. On older iPads, the app is a little laggy, but I'm hoping it will be updated soon.8
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