LaunchCenter Pro as a Dialer

With the release of iOS7 Apple has split the Phone app on the iPhone into two separate apps. Phone, for regular calls, and FaceTime, for calling over 3G or wifi, being it video or new in iOS7, audio only.

It makes the FaceTime option a lot more visible, and easier to use, but the downside is that I now have three green icons on my home screen to communicate. Messages, FaceTime and Phone. And the strange thing is, even while I’m carrying a cellphone, these are three of the least used apps on my iPhone. Giving up two home screen slots for these apps is worse enough, but three, and especially three identically colored bright green spots, is a bit too much.

After a few days of trying out different options,  like moving the apps into one folder, putting them all in the dock, placing them all onto a second homescreen and still not liking it, I’ve completely removed Phone and FaceTime from my first and second homescreen and buried them in a folder somewhere on page three.

I replaced both apps with LaunchCenter Pro. The app, notoriously known for its tight URL-scheme integration, sits neatly in my phone’s dock, accompanied on both sides by OmniFocus and the fantastic Fantastical.

When launching LaunchCenter Pro (no pun intended) It shows you a grid of fifteen icons which you can map to apps, iOS features or more clever URL-schemes. My home screen is, excluding the bottom row,  filled with twelve phone numbers, either Phone or FaceTime Audio depending on the contact with a nice image of each contact filling the icon.

The bottom row contains three links. Bottom-left is a Phone Keypad, bottom-right links to all my contacts and center is reserved for a link to a second screen with links to apps.

Although I have to admit I only seldom use the apps shortcut. I tried incorporating links to a new Draft, a new OmniFocus todo, a new Evernote note into my workflow but (as of now) I usually forget about LaunchCenters’ quick links and open the real app directly.

But as a replacement for Phone and FaceTime, it works great. It takes up only one slot in the dock, it’s arguably better than the original apps in the visual way it represents favorite contacts. And with the addition of a dial pad and contact search button I lose no functionality. Integrating Messages on the other hand didn’t work out for me. I added quick message-links to often used contacts at first, and buried the Messages app with its other two green siblings on page three. But I found myself opening the Messages app to refer to a message too often. So Messages earned its place on page one of my Springboard, while the other two are replaced with this great app.

I’ve got only one feature request: the option to automatically fetch a contacts’s photo from its contact card. I don’t keep images of every contact i n my camera roll, so in order to populate LaunchCenter’s homescreen with contact images I had to manually copy them one by one from Facebook and other sources, instead of just using the existing ones in Contacts.

Since I’m really starting to like this app, I hope my active use of LaunchCenter Pro as a launch pad for the phone apps, will get me to use it as a launcher for other actions too. I’ve integrated bits of Viticci’s Fantastical2 scripts in it, and a few Pythonista scripts, so who knows…