Launch Center Pro for iPhone from App Cubby isn't particularly easy to understand. It looks like a second home screen for your iPhone filled with colorful icons — some familiar, some unfamiliar. What Launch Center Pro does is create a home screen for commonly used "actions" like texting your Dad, shooting a photo in Instagram, searching for a term using Tweetbot, creating a quick note in Simplenote, or using your iPhone as a flashlight. Using "Groups," you can create a quick-access folder of actions to effectively turn the app into a speed-dial mechanism for calling, texting, or anything else you need to do quickly. Launch Center Pro creates icons for these actions using URL hooks, which are shortcuts present in many apps that let you jump right to a certain screen like Instagram's camera mode.
We'd previously heard about Launch Center because of its clever (but roundabout) way of using Notification Center to let you launch these same kinds of actions. Apple gave App Cubby a tough time for subverting the utility of Notification Center, so the company took a different approach with Pro, turning the app into a grid-view launcher for commonly used functions, like snapping a quick picture with Instagram. "Apple is letting us do this," App Cubby co-founder David Barnard told us.
"Apple is letting us do this."
Launch Center is built for speed, and lets you customize an entire grid of actions, but it also lets you create Groups — icons you can tap and hold to reveal many other options. One useful group you can create is "Call." When you hold down the icon for Call, the rest of the screen fills up with people you frequently call. Drag your finger to the person you want, release, and the phone's ringing. If you make lots of phone calls, this method is certainly faster than poking through Phone.app. You can also create Groups for people you text, email, Safari bookmarks, and more.
In absence of a simple "Tweet" field in iOS 5, you can add a button in Launch Center that pulls up an empty Tweet prompt. You can also take advantage of the iPhone's clipboard while creating new actions. For example, you can create an action that instantly tweets or creates a Simplenote using whatever's in your clipboard.
Apps like Tweetbot, Day One, Instagram, Instapaper, Camera+, Omnifocus, Things, and Simplenote contain URL shortcut hooks, but not all apps do. The original point of including these hooks is so apps can transfer data from one to another. Once iOS 6 launches and a greater emphasis is placed on inter-app communication (Apple demoed jumping from Safari to Yelp instantly), Barnard said, more and more apps will include hooks that make Launch Center Pro even more useful. For example, you could hypothetically do a search of your Evernote account from a prompt within Launch Center Pro.
Launch Center Pro is ultimately for power users, and power users will love it, but perhaps it's most useful for everyday users looking for the speed dial menu iOS lacks. One of the best things about a BlackBerry is quick access to speed dial numbers, which you can assign to any key on the device's keyboard. You could easily create a grid of your nine most-called or most-texted friends. Or if you mostly talk to your spouse and a couple friends, you could have a speed-dials for them on the Launch Center Pro home screen.
None of this would work if the app were slow; fortunately, opening the app and launching actions are instantaneous. If you're willing to sacrifice a precious spot in your dock, then $2.99 Launch Center Pro could flip some of your typical mobile workflows upside down. "It's not a home screen replacement," Barnard insists. "It's an app for people who want to do ninja productivity stuff."
Grab Launch Center Pro here from the App Store.