iPhone Life magazine

Magic Window - Living Pictures Review

Time is a very popular category for many iOS applications. Most of these types of apps focus on scheduling time, though a growing number have been designed to view time in an attractive and novel way. One such application adopting this approach is Magic Window - Living Pictures.

Rather than focusing predominantly on the display of the current time and weather as do a number of other iOS clock programs, Magic Window shifts the observer's attention from the digital clock display to the animated backgrounds that fill the screen. For those old enough to remember the time pieces melded with rotisserie light box framed pictures that gave these translucent photos of mountain streams and lakes the illusion of movement (such designs were popularized as home bar adornments in the 1970's), Magic Window brings this style of concept into the 21st century.


Magic Window Screen 1


In addition to displaying the date and time in a crisp helvetica font, current weather conditions are also innocuously displayed in the adjacent corner of the screen. Touching the screen brings up several icons that allow users to choose their desired weather location, speed of picture animation, and scene selection. In fact, it is this brilliant ability to download new scenes that sets Magic Window apart from many other clock-style programs, and will certainly keep it fresh for a longer duration than competing time display applications. This download approach also helps keep the overall size of Magic Window smaller, since each new scene adds roughly 50 megabytes to the Magic Window's storage requirements.

Another advantage that Magic Window has over other clock programs is its price and platform support. Competing programs often cost more since they have separate versions for iPhone and iPad formats. Magic Window is a universal app that optimizes its display for all iOS devices at iPhone 3GS, 3rd generation iPod Touch, the iPad or higher. While it's too bad that the developer opted to forgo the older generation of iPhones and iPod Touches, its understandable that such a program would tax those slower processor systems given the full-screen animation effects and high fidelity sound effects that Magic Window outputs.


Magic Window Screen 2


Magic Window - Living Pictures is a sequel of sorts to Moshen Chan's Living Earth HD - World Clock and Weather, a program that features a rotating earth ala Google Earth that accurately renders the day/night cycle (complete with the aggregated nighttime glow of city lights across continents) based on the user's current time and location. Thus, fans of that program will no doubt appreciate the extension that Magic Window brings to that initial idea.


Magic Window Screen 3


Two features missing in Magic Window that are found in many other clock display programs are custom sounds for sleep and wake timers. While the stock sound effects stay within the relaxing bounds of the application's soothing intentions, I would really rather fall asleep to podcasts or music instead of ambient surf or white noise. Fortunately, the developer says this much requested feature will be forthcoming in a future update.

In addition to the custom sleep and wake alarms, one concept I would really like to see Magic Window adopt in some future iteration is a concept that originated from an old PC "living world calendar" program called Seize the Day. In addition to featuring beautifully animated background vistas, Seize the Day altered the scene with the passage of the time. Applying this concept to Magic Window, take the setting of a beautiful pastoral Pennsylvania valley and follow it from the green grass of summer to the colored leaves of fall to a snow-blanketed winter to the snow melt running streams of spring.  Day and night cycles would also change the scene - a cityscape would illuminate lights and billboards, while a country home would have a soft glow from a fireplace flickering after the sun went down. Couple these renderings with current weather conditions (rain, snow, sunny, cloudy) and such visual representations could make Magic Window a year-round captivating experience.

Even without the implementation such a grand dream, Magic Window delivers a stunning execution of its "more than just an alarm clock" pretense. While nearly perfect, a few extra tweaks will make Magic Window have the potential to become a must-have application that every iPhone and iPad user will use to showcase their iOS device. I sincerely look forward to the future iterations that developer Jetson Creative has in store for this stunningly beautiful program.

Product: Magic Windows - Living Pictures
Developer: Jetson Creative
Rating: 4/5 stars
Price: $4.99

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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.