September 20, 2014

Reader Submission - Locale: A Future Platform for the 1st Generation of Smart Apps

android_locale

Here’s a pretty good piece on Locale and what future implications of the app could hold.  Written by Roy van Keulen, it’s definitely a fan piece with a little bit of prophesizing.

Locale: A Future Platform for the 1st Generation of Smart Apps

Locale has always been one of those apps that every G1 user should have, offering a wide range of conditions and settings to create useful situations for everyone. It’s major drawback however used to be the inaccurate indoor location detection… until now. Last week Two Forty Four a.m. finally released a beta for Locales WiFi IP-address detection that is going to greatly improve indoor location detection. Now that Two Forty Four a.m. has nearly finalized and perfected it’s main app, I think it is time to look at the future possibilities for Locale.

1. Conditions:

Two Forty Four a.m. has always promoted Locale as the app that would change your settings to certain specified conditions so I am starting off with the most useful future conditions. These conditions activate settings when certain true/false questions are answered with a “true”.

Call – Am I refusing a telephone conversation? (idea taken from PhonePlusCallback)

Useful when: You can’t answer your phone.
Changed setting: SMS
With Locale monitoring your location, time, scheduled events and ongoing calls, it has a pretty good understanding as to why you are not answering your phone. This could make for what I like to call, a ‘condition-based-auto-reply’, which would be way more intuitive than any other auto-reply-service. Think of the possibilities with just the main app configured and with appropriate situation names; I can’t answer my phone, because I am:

  • at work (location)
  • unavailable (calendar)
  • in another call (contact)
  • asleep (time)
  • etc.

For this to work optimally Two Forty Four a.m. should expand the contacts condition to include groups of contacts/all contacts and also expand the calendar condition to allow people to add entire calendars at once. There have also already been requests for a driving condition for Bluetooth-users, which would also make for a good auto-reply (no pun intended).

SMS – Does this SMS contain a certain command? (idea taken from SMS Commander)

Useful when: You loose your phone

Changed settings: Ringer volume, Ringtone, GPS
We have all lost our phones at some point in our lives with the sound turned off. Sending a text message from another phone with a certain command could then turn your sound back on. This would make for a great new condition in Locale where the situations title is also the custom command.

For example, the situation with the title: “I can’t find you!” (for a lost phone) is a command to change a few settings (Ringer volume/Ringtone) after which you will be able to quickly find your phone again by making another phone call to it.

A situation with the non-suspicious title “I want you back!” (for a stolen phone) could enable some location detection settings after which you can accurately track your phone on Google Latitude.
This would also make it a lot better than SMS Commander, because you can choose a custom command (as the situations title) and custom settings instead of having to use an unrememberable password and list of useless commands.

2. LoToDo (Locale ToDo-list):

There are many apps in the market that offer to-do lists. Some of these are just like a notepad or post-it, others are time-based, tag-based, priority-based or context-based, but none are condition-based. A to-do list that uses Locales configured conditions could again provide more users pecific information than other apps could ever hope to provide.
The benefits of a condition-based to do-list are:

  1. There is something for every kind of task (due date, location, context, weekly)
  2. The combination of certain conditions can make LoToDo the first smart ToDo-list

For example, when I am available (+calendar) and leaving work (-context) remind me to go and get an extra battery for my G1 at the store (+location), unless the store is closed (-time).
For this to work optimally Two Forty Four a.m. should allow to have ability to have ‘Not’ on conditions and have the ability to choose between alternative and cumulative conditions.

Why not use those other apps?

So we have already seen that Locale, with it’s conditions system, can be smarter at doing the jobs that a lot of other apps do, but that is not the only reason to concentrate all these apps into one.

  • You don’t have to waste your 74MB internal storage
  • You don’t have 10 apps monitoring your phone and using up a lot of CPU and battery
  • You don’t have to pay for all these apps (watch out Power Manger updaters!)
  • You don’t have apps like Wiggle, Power Manager and Locale cancelling eachother out

3. Settings:
So far we have seen that Locale could and should do much more with it’s conditions-system, but what about it’s settings-system? Besides from the obvious lack of certain settings (auto-synch, airplane-mode), there are two main features currently missing.

Manual mode – Untill a condition is met (idea taken from Useful Switchers)
Locales “Set it and forget it”-credo is great, but we have all felt the urge to uninstall Locale and switch to an app like Useful Switchers permanently when Locale overwrites our manual changes. That is why Locale should have a great manual mode that temporarily overwrites certain settings from the main app. These overwrites could also be condition-based, but this time ‘until’ a condition is met. For example, freezing a set of settings until 5p.m., until you get home or until you manually disable the manual overwrite.

3rd party Plug-ins (ideas taken from any interested developer)

Two Forty Four a.m. has spend almost a year on making the first smart app that knows the important patterns and habits of it’s masters life. This brings great potential for 3rd party developers who want to bring custom settings to the table. We can easily imagine what the makers of apps like Power Manager and Mybackup can do if Two Forty Four a.m. would allow them to create plug-ins for Locale, but think about what another plug-in could achieve with just a little more information about your personal interests…

I think Locale has proven it’s worthiness of being a top 10 finalist in the first Android Developer Challenge by creating a powerfull and smart platform for setting your system settings. It will be interesting to see what Two Forty Four a.m. will bring us in the future… and ofcourse… at what price…

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