Minimalist task manager app Clear (which we reviewed here) has proven to be quite popular despite its premium price point, so it’s unsurprising to see some app developers attempting to piggyback off that success with their own products that superficially resemble Realmac’s title. Thing, a recent release in the Productivity category (available in both free and paid incarnations, with the only difference being the paid version’s customizable color schemes), is one such example — but is it a simple clone or something more?
First impressions are that Thing is simply a ripoff of Clear. It has the same gradient-color interface, the same gestures and even an almost identical (albeit recolored) icon. However, delving a little deeper reveals the fact that Thing Free is actually a more fully-featured — if less polished — task manager than Realmac’s offering.
Like Clear, Thing allows users to create lists of tasks and then populate these lists with individual items. Tasks can be marked as completed by swiping to the right, or deleted by swiping to the left. Entire lists can also be manipulated in this manner. Once tasks or lists have been marked as completed they may be “cleared” — deleted permanently — by shaking the device. (Clear also allows users to pull up from the bottom of the screen to perform this function, but Thing does not.)
The difference between Clear and Thing is that the above functionality is where Realmac’s title stops — it deliberately chooses to forgo more complex functionality in favor of providing a simple, minimalist experience. Thing, meanwhile, allows users to tap on an individual item or list in order to manipulate it. It’s possible to add notes to a task, set a reminder, move it to a new list or share it via Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS. Twitter and Facebook connectivity use iOS 5 and 6’s built-in functionality respectively rather than external apps or web-based interfaces. If sending a task via email, the task name is set as the subject and any notes put into the body of the email.
This additional functionality may please those who tried Clear and found it somewhat limited, though there are still common to-do list features that are missing from Thing — recurring tasks being one that springs immediately to mind. Where the app is obviously inferior to Realmac’s title is in its presentation, however. Clear makes use of the full iOS display space and relies exclusively on gestural controls to navigate, giving a pleasingly minimalist aesthetic. Thing, meanwhile, features a default iOS title bar and back button at the top of every screen. This provides straightforward, recognizable functionality for those used to it, but it looks ugly and clashes somewhat with the rest of the interface. Along similar lines, the frame rate of animations when creating or manipulating items is not as smooth and slick as Clear, making the app look somewhat unpolished. The sounds used are low-quality, too, with audible noise evident — Clear’s sound effects, meanwhile, are crystal clear, no pun intended.
Thing is a decent to-do list app, but its obvious and shameless copying of Clear cannot be ignored. No acknowledgement is given to Realmac Software on the App Store pages for either the paid or the free version, and given the fact the app even uses the same default color scheme as Clear it’s difficult to believe that the resemblance is coincidental. Its additional functionality may make it a more fully-featured app than Clear, but it could be argued that a big part of Clear’s appeal is that it doesn’t clutter its interface with any more than the bare minimum required to make lists. Thing, meanwhile, occupies a curious middle ground between the minimalism of Clear and the functionality of more complex to-do list apps, and it’s difficult to know exactly who it’s aimed at. Consequently, it’s tough to recommend it in good conscience.
Thing and its free counterpart are not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back soon to follow their progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.