I’ve got the new iPhone 6s on preorder for Friday, and one of the features I’m most excited about is 3D Touch, which, among other things, allows users to jump right into an action within an app. That means you can jump straight to the selfie cam or quickly start a call to your spouse from the home screen.
If you own an earlier iPhone on contract or just aren’t interested in upgrading right now, you may think you’re stuck having to navigate through ever-more-complicated apps. But Apple just allowed the next best thing into the App Store. Launch Center Pro lets you jump right into an action within an app from a widget in Today view, and it already works with thousands of apps on iPhones right now.
That means you can speed dial your mom with one touch or jump straight into the text conversation with your spouse instead launching Messages, backing out of your current conversation, scrolling to find your spouse, then starting to to type. (Or worse, just start typing when you open Messages and send it before realizing that you told your boss you’re going to pick up milk on your way home.)
But it’s not just stock apps; you can also set it up to launch Google Maps loaded up with transit directions home, or launch the camera inside the Instagram app, or start a tweet in the Twitter app with the last photo you took already attached. There are literally hundreds of thousands of possibilities. It all works by taking advantage of URL schemes, which developers code into apps to make it easier to launch actions from the web.
If this all sounds slightly familiar, that’s because it is. The original Launch Center was actually introduced back in 2012, letting users launch applications through hacky notifications that popped up at specific times. Launch Center Pro, launched later that year, introduced a cleaner interface and more robust actions as app developers added support for more URL schemes.
However, Apple didn’t have widget support at the time, so users had to open Launch Center Pro to jump into an app’s action, which seems pretty counterintuitive, but the app still had plenty of users. This past week, Launch Center Pro finally made it past Apple’s censors to add its own widget. Users can now add quick-launch actions to the pull-down Today view on their iPhones, even when they’re locked.
Launch Center Pro is competing with a few other productivity apps. Perhaps the most popular is Workflow, which lets you add actions directly to your home screen with Safari’s Add to Homescreen function. However, Workflow’s setup is quite a bit more complicated and skews towards more technical functions.
Launch Center Pro is iOS only and is currently $3.99 on the App Store, $1 off its usual price. There’s also a $4.99 Launch Center Pro for iPad, which brings the idea of launching actions to the bigger screen, but doesn’t have widget functionality quite yet. If you want a taste of that 3D Touch functionality but don’t plan on getting the new iPhone anytime soon, save some money and get Launch Center Pro instead.