The App Store is full to bursting with calendaring, notification and to-do list applications that, collectively, provide practically every single GTD feature one can ask for. Yet, for some reason, there is a lack of really good, well-designed location-based reminder apps. Or at least, there was.
Independent iOS developer and student Henri Normak recently released Cues on the App Store, a $1.99 iPhone app that can remind you of tasks based on when you enter or leave an area anywhere on a map. And it does so with aplomb, with a design so slick that you’ll want to use it just for the user interface (UI) alone.
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When you add a new reminder to the app (which it calls “cues”), you can give it a title, add a small note and assign a category to it to help you identify it in the list. You can also specify whether the alert should keep repeating until you manually turn it off or if it should fire just once. And a toggle lets you choose to be alerted on entry into an area or when exiting from it.
A Location button brings you to a screen with your bookmarked locations, allowing you to choose from one of them or add a new one from the map. The map offers no search feature, which is a letdown, but it does offer pre-bookmarked locations fetched from the Google Places database in an attempt to make up for it.
When selecting a location, you have to manually pan and zoom around on the map to find the place you’re looking for and then select either one of the existing pins or summon a new one by tapping and holding your finger on the map. You can then drag this pin and drop it anywhere. You can also choose your current location, which is already displayed on the map.
Besides selecting it on the map, you can assign a name and colour to a location and also specify the radius within which it should throw up the alert. Unfortunately, due to restrictions in the way background location features work on the iPhone, even the smallest radius (about half a kilometre) is a bit too large for some of the uses you may want to put it to—for example, if you want to be notified about something as soon as you leave your house. For most scenarios, however, it should be fine.
Once the cue is created, you can quit the app and it will pipe up with the reminder when you step in or out of the locations you’d defined before. It works exactly as advertised and we never once failed to receive an alert in the few times that we used the app while testing.
The app immediately stops requesting your location when there are no more cues to be fired, but it still does use quite a bit of battery life due to the constant activation of location-based features it requires. There are also some problems with its UI: the Location button looks like it is disabled when you go to add a location and turns red if you try to create one without adding a location. This is confusing and non-standard behaviour that could easily have been avoided.
It forces you through a workflow that requires you to create a bookmark for every new location, even if you don’t intend to use it again. I also found a lot of places wrongly marked in the Google Places database it borrows from, which is not exactly the app’s fault but it’s a problem that could potentially have been solved with the addition of an option of searching the map.
Despite these failings, however, Cues is a promising app that has had a wonderful start and the developer has already submitted an update to Apple that will fix some of the battery life issues and improve the workflow. There are several other location-based reminder apps in the App Store—such as Locationizer, Location Minder and Place Clock—but none of them even come close to the level of polish that Cues offers.
Though by no means perfect, Cues is one of the best (if not the best) location-based reminder app on the App Store. Go ahead, give it a try.
[Cues is available for $1.99 on the App Store and is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4 or later that is capable of multitasking. It is not a universal app.]