Let Alloy turn your frequent iPhone tasks into apps

By

alloy-automator-launcher-iphone-app - 6
Alloy streamlines our frequent multi-step tasks into quick automated launchers.
Photo: Alloy

Alloy is the iPhone app that ultimately wants you to spend less time using your iPhone. It lets you create automated tasks and workflows that you can launch with one tap. The automations can upload a selfie to Twitter, convert currency, save your parking location, perform a saved search on Amazon and just about anything else if you’re willing to get creative

If you’ve been on the lookout for automated workflow apps, chances are you’ve come across the aptly named Workflow as well and might be thinking Alloy sounds eerily familiar. The Alloy team assured me the two are not the same though.

“Alloy is rather an application platform versus workflow engine,” they said. “So each action in Alloy is a small app with its own life-circle, private data, control over action title and icon, etc.”

Basically what this means is that Alloy runs the automation a bit differently. Essentially each action is a tiny app within the app. From there, you assign tasks to them to bring them to life. When you open Alloy, it almost feels like your diving underneath the regular Home screen to another Home screen of apps capable of more specific tasks.

alloy-automator-launcher-iphone-app - 4
The action directory houses different tasks that will make your life easier in Alloy.
Photo: Alloy

To create a new action, tap the Plus icon at the top left and tap Action. You’ll see that each action comes with an installation workflow and a runtime workflow. These aren’t very user friendly terms, but to break them down, the runtime flow is the list of tasks that will run every single time you launch the action. The installation workflow sets the framework just once.

For instance, if you wanted to create an action to automatically speed dial your favorite pizza place, the installation workflow would get the details of that pizza place and hold them, while you’d set the runtime workflow to actually call the number.

When you tap either type of workflow, you’ll immediately see that you have to add a task. Tap this to see the overwhelming amount of possibilities you can use to customize the action. Alloy includes such possible tasks as updating a reminder, loading a contact, opening a URL, working with if-else statements, get current location, send a text message and an insane amount more.

If you’re not sure how to start off completely on a clean slate, Alloy includes a wealth of action tasks that work with other apps in the action directory. You can select one of these if you stumble upon potential ways to boost your productivity through apps you already use. Such apps supported include 1Password, Day One, Clear, Instagram, Fantastical, Evernote, Things and Yelp.

alloy-automator-launcher-iphone-app - 2
The included parking app is convenient, but a closer look reveals it wouldn’t be easy for a regular consumer to set up.
Photo: Alloy

When you create an action, it saves as a miniature app within Alloy, or you can optionally add it to your Home screen for easy access. Alloy also includes a Favorites folder with shortcuts to frequently used actions.

The biggest problem I have with Alloy is that it just isn’t user friendly enough. Workflow, though that can use some work too, seems aimed at a much broader audience since it’s much easier to set up tasks and execute them. Alloy, with its “runtime workflows” and “installation workflows” not to mention variables and other strong hints toward coding language, falls short of truly being an app for the masses.

If you’re tech savvy, I’d actually recommend Alloy over Workflow because it’s more powerful once you get past the lack of intuitiveness. You can fine-tune actions and tasks much more to achieve your desired result. Otherwise, both Alloy and Workflow offer their own unique perspectives on how to boost your iPhone productivity through automation and they ultimately work well.

You can get Alloy in the App Store for $4.99.