With the advent of apps, entire shelves of devices became obsolete overnight. Who needed a handheld Magellan GPS unit when you could download their turn-by-turn app on your iPhone? Of course, as we’ve seen lately, apps can be outmoded too. Who wants to pay 15 bucks for that Magellan turn-by-turn app today when you can get the same functionality for free from Google Maps?
You’d think that currency conversion apps might be one of those categories on the verge of extinction. The simple service they provide is one of the few things that info-doling super-apps like Siri and Google Now can handle with ease. So how do you make your conversion app a value added proposition? You add just enough functionality to out-perform those barebones alternatives without overwhelming users, and you let them satisfyingly smash numbers off the screen for good measure.
The developers behind the app, Currency, took care to find that sweet spot of not-too-much, not-too-little functionality. Looking at the category, they saw that the feature-strewn apps that populated it were often designed for forex traders, not travelers. “We went through a ton of iterations and decided that editing numbers and seeing multiple currencies were the two most important features to us,” says Alex Penny, who developed the app along with Matt Davenport. “Both of which Google lack.”
Their app has another significant advantage over Google Now: it’ll work no matter what kind of cell service you’re picking up. “As long as travelers will be without an Internet connection there will always be room for a converter app,” Penny says.
And then there’s the number smashing. It’s one of those small UX touches that gives outsize satisfaction, a little bit like Loren Brichter’s now-ubiquitous pull-to-refresh. Instead of forcing you to hit a virtual “clear” button to vacate converted numbers from the screen, the app simply lets you swipe them off the display. It’s a small pleasure, but compared to asking Siri stiffly to convert your dollars to yen, it makes Currency a blast.