With the arrival of the new Basecamp earlier this year (initially codenamed “Basecamp Next”), it has become an integral part of our workflow at savvy apps. We run both in-house and customer projects through it to iterate through designs, discuss broader development related-items that might not have tickets in Sprint.ly, and keep track of schedules.
The new Basecamp launched with an entirely different API though, meaning all mobile Basecamp clients became obsolete. Thankfully, there are now more than a handful of iPhone apps available on the App Store, which are built against the new API. Considering the importance of being able to quickly participate in discussions or track updates while on the go, I’ve given about six options a try with Carabiner, Rappel, and Lodge bubbling to the top.
While each app has their own merits—and in particular, Lodge and Rappel are nicely designed (although I’m not a fan of Rappel’s app icon)—I prefer Carabiner for four reasons:
- Latest Activity
Carabiner provides a decent overview of everything happening in a project. In my opinion though, Rappel has the best project “Overview” screen. I prefer its layout and design to Carabiner’s but it comes up short in other areas.
Comparatively, Lodge doesn’t have any activity information, which results in having to visit multiple tabs to check for and subsequently view updates.
- Scroll to Latest Comment
My favorite feature in Carabiner is a real time saver; when selecting any “Discussions” item, the screen will automatically scroll down to the latest comment. Carabiner also includes a “+” button in the navigation bar, which allows a comment to be added independent of the current thread position.
Similarly, Rappel has a permanent way to add comments and its approach reminds me of Campfire for iPhone. Lodge requires scrolling all the way to the bottom of the thread to add a comment, which is particularly tedious for length discussions.
- Viewing File Attachments
Related to the last point, of these three iPhone apps, Carabiner is the only one that allows quick viewing of file attachments. Specifically, it will provide a visual cue when files are attached to a comment. To view a file, Carabiner only requires a simple, single tap on the file icon to view it right then and there. Rappel includes a visual indicator as well but requires a tap to initiate a download first. Once the download is complete, another tap is needed to view the file. As far as I can tell, Carabiner combines both steps into one.
Lodge is the worst offender on this front. In the “Discussions” item, there’s no information about file attachments. Thus, it is very easy to miss that a comment had a screenshot posted with it unless the commenter mentioned that in the comment itself, such “Here’s an updated version of the screen attached…”
- Full Featured
Even though it’s read-only right now, all “Text documents” are viewable in Carabiner. Lodge goes a step further, allowing editing as well. Rappel doesn’t include “Text documents” at this time. In general, Lodge and Carabiner appear to support the most Basecamp features right now.
I had been using Lodge as my main iPhone client until last week but continued to struggle with the issues above. Additionally, Lodge never seemed to remember the last view I was in and is the most unstable of these three options. Carabiner does have at least one nasty bug too, which is that I’ve infrequently seen “Discussions” sometimes show as empty or blank.
Even though I’m not regularly using Rappel right now, if it handled file attachments like Carabiner and offered a way to quickly jump to the bottom of a thread, I would likely replace Carabiner. That’s despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of Rappel’s icon; it just seems odd relative to the interface of the app. I could get over the icon because I really like Rappel’s “Overview” screen for projects (shown above), their global activity views across projects, and how they approach threading comments on “Discussions.”
In the meantime, Carabiner is the way I’m using Basecamp on the iPhone. I’ve kept Lodge and Rappel installed though, as they both have proven to receive regular updates. The good news it that Basecamp clients are again alive and well on the iPhone and elsewhere. Give these options a try and see which one makes the most sense for your own workflow.