App Review: Shifts for iPhone

All images in review courtesy of Snowman.
Shifts seems like it’s an app made just for me. Unlike a lot of the “work assist” apps that get a lot of play in the tech blogger community, this app can actually help someone like me! I don’t freelance often and I don’t have a nine-to-five job that’s the same every week. Nope, I have a job that requires me to work at different times of day. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see my alarms saved on my iPhone; I have literally about 50. In my short time with Shifts, I can already say that this has improved on my current schedule tracking in almost every way.

“It’s just a calendar app…” was my first thought when I launched Shifts. And I guess if we’re being particular, it is a calendar app. But it’s a calendar with a singular purpose, and it does one thing much better than calendar apps.

Shifts makes it extremely easy to enter your work schedule. After entering your possible shifts (name, time, image, and hourly rate) into the app, adding them to your calendar is a breeze. I have to admit it took me a few seconds to get the hang of this input method. It’s simply unlike any calendar app I have used. Instead of choosing a date and then entering an event, Shifts has you pick an event (shift) and then assign it to a date.

This method works amazingly for my upcoming week, in which I work 8am to 5pm 4 days in a row. It’s a simple 4 taps and I’m done. On the Mac, I would have done this in the Calendar app and copied and pasted the event across each day. That’s not bad compared to what it would have looked like on iOS, which would have entailed manually entering each day one at a time. Out of curiosity, I experimented with how long each method would take, and this is what I got:

App Time(sec.)
Calendar(Mac) 25
Fantastical(iOS) 64
Shifts 3

It’s not a perfect test, and there are cases when the old methods might be quicker, but it does illustrate how well this app can be at very specific tasks. There are few things in this world more boring than entering your schedule in your phone, and removing that doldrum from my life is awesome.

Now Shifts isn’t perfect, and there are some things I wish were here. First, while it’s great to add shifts from your pre-made list of shifts, it’s pretty clunky if you need to add a one-time shift. You presently have to create a new permanent event, back out to your calendar view, and add it just like another shift. If you don’t want that shift cluttering up your list, then you have to go back and delete it after it’s added. I feel like there should be an easier way.

I also don’t love that there is no calendar integration at all. While I loath adding my work days in Google Calendar, I do like having it there so I can see it on multiple devices. Shifts keeps my schedule locked in one app on one device.

Finally, and this isn’t a glitch as much as a feature request, I wish that there was a way to automatically set up an alarm to go off a certain amount of time before a shift. For example, when I account for travel and morning prep, I need to wake up 2 hours and 15 minutes before work no matter what time I start. As it stands now, I can have the app send me an alert at a list of predefinded times, but not at the exact time I need. It would also be nice if this alert was more of an alarm and less like a simple notification. Again, I have 50+ alarms saved in my phone. If this app could make waking up as easy as it makes recording my schedule, it would be a true killer app.

All in all, I do really like Shifts. As I said, Shifts makes something that is completely boring and time consuming, and makes is quick and easy. There are a couple nagging issues I would love to see ironed out in an update, but at just $1.99, the benefits offered are absolutely worth the price.