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APP REVIEW: FRAGMENT

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You know a couple of app reviews ago when I said I was sick of Photo apps? Well guess what? I was lying. Now I'm REALLY sick of photo apps! Seriously, how many times can you repackage sepia photo filters?

Trust me though when I say my loss is your gain. Much like my career as a Graphic Designer, when it comes to app reviews, I now consider myself an expert. Not out of some misguided sense of arrogance, but because I've made every single possible mistake along my journey that I now know what NOT to do. Does that mean every subsequent app review is going to great? Probably not. What I do know is what to look for when avoiding crapps (crappy apps).

Does it's icon steal from the look and style of Instagrams? It's probably a crapp. Is there a list of "In-App Purchases" included in the App description? More than likely it's a crapp. Has it ever been a Starbucks Pick Of The Week? Then it's definitely crapp. Does that mean every single app that includes one or more of these outliers is automatically a crapp? Of course not. But even the most die-hard college liberal would be hard pressed to deny the fact that most stereotypes are based in truth.

This week after searching for an app that combined a unique premise with great reviews, I found myself at the feet of Fragment. A photo editing app that features prismatic photo effects. What exactly does that mean? To put it in layman's terms, it basically makes your photos look like an indie rock album cover.

indieIf your iTunes library resembles this collage, then you're legally required to punch yourself in the face.

So how does Fragment work? Quite easily. From the user interface all the way down to the app's icon, Fragment has an aesthetically pleasing look and feel, capitalizing on the minimalistic trend that's popular in Graphic Design right now.

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THIS! Right here. If you're new to graphic design, or you just plain suck, do yourself a favor and study this image. If you're going to ape anyone's style, please let it be Fragment's. The single most defining aspect of great design is simplicity. On the far left we see Fragment's splash page. No company logos, no title, no sign-up page, no notification inquires, no adds, just three options. Two of which are immediately engaging.

Tapping on the Information icon on the top right corner toggles a legend (center and right image) that efficiently describes every single aspect of Fragment. Seriously! Look at that! The whole entire premise of the app can easily fit onto the front and back side of a business card. Not to mention the presentation lends itself to an incredibly simple / easy to follow format.

Alright, alright, enough swooning. Lets get started. While peeking through example photos featured in the Inspiration selection, it seems like Fragment works best with landscapes. Unfortunately POW is based in Riverside CA, so the only landscapes you'll find around here are piles of dirt. Luckily, I hopped on my bosses computer while he was away and rifled through his pictures, discovering a beauteous photograph taken of Lake Powell in addition to several compromising selfies.

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Once you take / upload a picture into Fragment, you're then prompted to select an aspect ratio. When cycling through the different dimensions, the areas that will be cropped out are darkened to give a better indication of where your image will cut off. You also have the ability to rotate your image as well as selecting no aspect, incase you like your photo as is. To keep with the indie record cover theme, I'll be selecting the 1:1 aspect.

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After making my selection, I can now scrub through Fragment's prismatic filter library. To do so, just swipe your finger to the right or left of the grey boxes to scroll through each option. As you can see, there's a circle at the top of the screen. When it looks like a blue donut, you can edit your image's appearance inside the filter by pinching two fingers and moving them accordingly to adjust placement, rotation, or size. When the icon above looks like two yellow circles, you can edit your filter using the same technique to make similar adjustments to your prism. Tapping on the top circle allows you to switch in between the two.

The first three icons above the grey filter boxes are representative of these effects. Placement is represented by the 4 dots on the left, rotation/angle is represented by the speedometer / clock icon next to it, and the square within a square icon represents scaling. If at any point you are unsatisfied with your adjustment, tapping each of these icons once returns the image / filter to it's defaults size and position.

The fourth icon, which looks like a pair of "shuffle" arrows randomizes these effects on both the filter and the image inside of it.

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After much deliberation, I finally decided on a prismatic filter that looks like a fake-ass Van Halen logo. If you look at the previous image set, you'll notice a grey triangle on the bottom center of the screen. Swiping this triangle upward pulls up Fragment's image editing effects. The effects range from Brightness, Contrast, Additive, Blur, Invert and Desaturate. Keeping with the overall simplistic theme of Fragment, these effects work exactly like they sound. Each effect is represented by a circular icon on the top row of the image effects pull-up menu.

A liner dial rests on the 2nd row of this menu. This allows you to adjust the intensity of these image effects. Swiping to your left increases the positive value of the dial, which adjusts / applies these effects to your base image. Swiping to your right increases the negative value of the dial, in turn effecting the image inside the filter. Finally, the bottom row features a line of swatches that lets you assign a color to each selected filter.

After playing around with these tools for a good while, I finally decided on a combination I thought would look excellent on a bright white wood print. It definitely looks like an indie album cover, all that's missing is an indie band name that's just pretentious enough for kids to pretend they've actually heard of me when I play at next year's Coachella!

Since I've already delved into several Graphic Design tangents throughout this review, every first year design student knows that the shortest distance between you and a finished logo is a crappy amalgamation using the initials of the person / business you're designing it for. Best part is my prismatic filter already looks like one of those stupid logos! Let's see, the shape in the middle looks like a seven, the one on the outside looks like a V, and the one in the center is tilted just enough to look like an A.

Hmmmmm.... wait! I GOT IT!

7VAI can already hear the keyboards!

Yes, unfortunately my old fake band, Mötley Jew, has long since retired. I now urge every POW blog reader (all two of you) to check out my new fake band, Seven Vegan Astronauts. This summer we'll be going on tour with Washed Out and Kurt Vile! That's right! Come watch me strum 3 major chords + 1 minor cord on my Telecaster for 2 hours while whimpering metaphors into a microphone over an electronic drum beat! Did I mention i'm going to have a tambourine taped to my foot the entire time?

Now let's see how well this holds up on wood...

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Here I come! Today the internet, tomorrow the Grammys! Honestly, they gave one to Macklemore so it can't be THAT hard, right? (burn)

So was Fragment able to keep it together or shatter into a million pieces?

RATING

Having cycled through several different photo editing apps over the course of these reviews, one aspect that gets frustrating is the amount of backtracking that takes place. Switching through filters in most apps requires navigating in and out of several different interfaces in order to access what you need. This creates a wider margin of error until you start to memorize the rhythm of the app. From the jump, Fragment has all it's features centrally located on one single UI, and what isn't shown is still easily accessible without losing momentum.

When playing with Fragment, I felt that it's developers achieved a perfect balance between form and function. When apps lean too hard either way, it feels like they skimp on one to permeate the other. They end up being an app that's high on concept, but low on quality. Fragment takes a powerful stance on photo editing and combines it with an equally powerful design, resulting in a clean, fresh app.

When conducting research for my review, I discovered that Fragment's developers: Pixite LLC, have also created several companion apps that work in conjunction with Fragment. Each of these focus on a different aspects of photo editing. While this might be the case, Fragment (despite it's name) works and feels like a full, complete, stand-alone application. Even more so when compared to standard apps that like to hide it's best features behind a premium.

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For more information on Fragment, please visit: http://fragmentapp.com/

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