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IFTTT's new iPhone app taps into Contacts, Photos and Reminders (hands-on)

Nicole Lee, @nicole

IFTTT has been around for a couple of years now as an internet service that lets users customize connections between different apps and devices. The name stands for If This Then That, which encapsulates the idea behind it -- users can create automation Recipes that combine a Trigger (the "This") that'll result in an Action (the "That"). A popular example is to to have all your Instagram photos (the Trigger) automatically saved to your Dropbox folder (the Action). Services like Instagram and Dropbox are known as "Channels," and there are different Triggers and Actions associated with each. While it's a pretty neat concept, the only way to access IFTTT has been via the browser, and even then, Channels are limited to mostly web services.

IFTTT hopes to end all that today with its first-ever mobile app headed for iOS, aptly called IFTTT for iPhone. Not only does it provide a much more streamlined interface for Recipe creation -- only five taps required -- it also signifies an all-important next step in IFTTT's evolution: the ability to hook into a device's native Channels, namely Photos, Contacts and Reminders. Just like with the web services mentioned earlier, you can use them to create Recipes that take advantage of the phone's capabilities. For example, you can have it so that all the photos you take with the front-facing camera will be sent to Flickr with the "selfie" tag, or you can automatically send new contacts an introductory "Nice to meet you" email. Join us after the break for more of the app's features along with our hands-on impressions and some thoughts from IFTTT's CEO and co-founder, Linden Tibbets.

Gallery: IFTTT for iPhone | 6 Photos

One of the key features of the IFTTT app is a rich activity feed that's updated every time a Recipe is used, which is great for those who want to keep tabs on what's going on. If you really need to know the instant something occurs, you can also assign push notifications for select Recipes. What we especially liked is that at the top of the feed is a frequently updated Recipe recommendation based on the services you already use. Aside from the feed, there's also a daily Featured Recipe list curated by the IFTTT team, which is exclusive to the mobile experience. If you'd rather follow the beat of your own drum, you can browse existing shared recipes or, you know, create your own.

We've been an IFTTT user for about a year now, but admittedly have not looked at the service since then. Part of the reason for that is due to a low discoverability factor -- once we're satisfied with the Recipe we created, we just left it alone to do its work. The app, however, excited us into trying out new ones we hadn't thought of before. Creating a Recipe is very intuitive, and was a matter of just selecting the Channel, Trigger and Action that suited our fancy. We also liked the Recipe discovery tool a lot -- one of our favorite Recipes discovered this way is the ability to send new photos taken with the camera directly to Google Drive. While we're not sure if the app will keep us using the service, it certainly seems quite polished for a 1.0 product.

IFTTT hooks into iPhone's Contacts, Photos and Reminders in new mobile app handson

Tibbetts told us that he thinks of the app as IFTTT version 2.0: "Mobile is obviously the way to go. There's that value you can get from your phone -- it's always on your person, it's always connected." He's especially excited about iOS7, as it promises to let apps do more in the background but without the downside of draining the battery. He also said that the three iOS Channels in this release are just the beginning -- he hopes to integrate more native phone Channels in the future. As for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone? Tibbetts said that he definitely wants to see a native IFTTT app in all devices eventually, but is focusing on iOS for the time being. iPhone users can go ahead and download the app right now, while others will have to satisfy themselves with the mobile web.

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