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Apple's New Journal App: Simplicity or Over-Simplification?

A small step into the world of digital journaling

With the launch of iOS 17 came a flurry of new features and apps, one of the Apps that had me sit up and take notice was Apple's Journal. That came Three months post-launch in December with iOS 17.2. Since then, I've spent some time with the new Journal App, and here's my take on this fresh addition to the Apple ecosystem.

At first glance, the Journal App's interface is strikingly minimalistic. The homepage presents just two options: a filter button to sift through entries (categorized as All Entries, Photos, Places, and Bookmarks) and a button to create a new entry. The rest of the screen is a card view of your journal entries. This simplicity, however, borders on being underwhelming, especially when compared to more feature-rich journaling apps.

The Highlight: Smart Recommendations

Where the app shines is in its recommendation system. The 'Recommended' section offers personalized prompts based on your photos, locations, workouts, and even photo memory highlights. These prompts are thought-provoking and varied, ranging from creative nudges like "When was the last time you created something that inspired you?" to reflective questions such as "Think of a song that captures a memorable time in your life."

The 'Recent' section, while less dynamic, still provides a useful recap of recent activities like workouts, photos, and music you've listened to, albeit without the photo memories or reflective prompts found in the Recommended section.

Creating a journal entry is straightforward, whether you start with a recommendation or from scratch. The app allows for entries with current or custom dates. However, the recommendations are not date-specific, which feels like a missed opportunity for contextual journaling.

You can enrich your entries with photos from your library, new pictures (up to 13 images), audio recordings, and locations. Surprisingly, you can't directly add music, people you've connected with, or workout details to your entries; these are only accessible through the recommendations.

When stacked against established journaling apps like Daylio and DayOne, Apple's Journal App feels rudimentary. Both competitors have integrated Apple's Journaling Suggestions API, offering richer features like health stats alongside journal entries.

Looking forward, here's what I hope to see in future updates:

  1. Calendar View: A more organized way to navigate entries.

  2. Gallery View: A beautiful visual way to navigate my journal.

  3. Monthly Sections: To avoid endless scrolling and provide a better overview.

  4. Health Feature Integration: Direct access to health data like sleep, steps, and workouts would be a significant enhancement.

  5. Journal Entry Section: The Journal Entry should open on a separate page instead of the main timeline.

  6. Smart Recommendations: Date-specific recommendations that show up when using a custom date.

  7. Stats: At least some simple stats which let me look at how long I've journaled.

  8. Lookback: Surface relevant entries from time to time for me to reminisce.

Apple's Journal App, in its current iteration, is a step into the world of digital journaling but not a leap. Its recommendation engine is a standout feature, providing thoughtful prompts to kickstart journaling sessions. However, the app's simplicity and lack of advanced features leave much to be desired, especially for seasoned journal keepers. As we look towards iOS 18, one can only hope that Apple takes note of these shortcomings and transforms this barebones offering into a more robust tool for capturing life's moments.

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