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To-Do apps are a dime a dozen. But what good is knowing you need to swing by the library to pick up a book when you're clear on the other side of town? A task manager is only helpful if it tells me when I need to do something and when I'm near that place. Enter location-aware apps.
The first thing we need to get out of the way with location-aware apps is that so far, none of them work when not on. It would be nice if you didn't have to open the app and leave it running in the background to get notifications, but at this stage that's not happening. Whether or not iOS 5's Reminders has that same weakness we'll have to wait and see. And if you need this kind of service yesterday? Well, yesterday is here.
We read about Task Ave Inc.'s Task Ave on many blogs and sites and figured if it was getting that much attention, it had to be the goods. The app is certainly very prettily designed and it's a breeze to use. Two buttons up top and three down below and you're good to go.
Super Easy to Use Interface
Tap the compass arrow (familiar from Maps and elsewhere) to pinpoint where you are at this moment, then tap the + sign and an overlay appears asking "What do you need?" and "Where?" Type the thing you want, then you can either use your address book or type the name or address of the place. Task Ave finds it using Google Maps and presents you with the item or list (if you choose a chain store like Walgreens).
You Type the Name; the App Does the Work
Tap the name and address of the place you've chosen and you're done. At the bottom of the screen you can see your map. Pin markers with the number of items you need from that place help you navigate where you want to go. The pins are tappable and up pops a tiny information panel with the location. Tap the blue arrow and you're taken to the list screen for that place.
Tasks Are by Location and You Can Add Items
To see all your places in list format, there's a List button at the bottom of the screen. Tap the item on your list to check it off or tap the "Add a Task" button top of the list screen to add more stuff. The settings button lets you switch between miles and kilometers as well as set proximity alerts based on how far you are from your location.
Except this last thing doesn't really work. Task Ave gives you notifications only if the app is open, not running in the background. Then it gives you notifications from within the app, not the iPhone's notifications. Worst of all, regardless of your location, the app alerts you of all your tasks. We set ours to half a mile and got our notifications every time we opened the app -- even when we were more than five miles from some of our tasks.
Proximity Is Set to 1/2 Mile; Why the Notification?
Set up was the best experience of the three apps and Task Ave is simple, intuitive, and pleasant -- it just doesn't work like it needs to.
Now if it's notifications you want, you've come to the right place. While like we said earlier, it won't notify you if it's not open, Matt Martindale's Locationizer won't give up until you know what you have to do. We let this app in the background and stopped it after the 21st notification (with app badges and all).
And This Was for One Task
Like Task Ave, Locationizer opens on a Google Map of your location. From here you have the option of choosing which view of Google Maps you get (something better tucked away in settings for a cleaner experience). You also have the compass arrow to locate yourself and a + sign to set your task location. Tap the + and three choices are given you: drop a circle on the map, add from your contacts, and search for an address.
Decent Search, But If You Know, Drop a Circle
Locationizer was less able to find locations we typed in than Task Ave, but it did let us draw circles of varying sizes to pinpoint our desired task locations. We could make these very precise (in one example we got down to 0.032850 miles) or very broad. Circle color can be changed for clarity's sake when looking at your map.
Not a Lot of Settings, But Do You Need Them
List view shows you your items, though you can't create a lengthy list. It has to be one thing you're doing. Tap the item on the list to edit its name, the distance away before you get an alert, the notification sound and circle color. On most pages, theres's a GPS Signal Meter that lets you know how strong your locationizing is.
Would Like To Add Tasks to Our Tasks
Settings lets you turn off the app running in the background and turn on the power saving mode (which will update based on cell tower swapping & not on GPS which is far more accurate about your location). If you're curious, there's a free version with ads and a one task limit, but at least Locationizer let us know when we got close. And let us know, and know, and know, and know.
Have you heard that iOS 5's Reminders might be fairly feature-bare? Well, if features are what you're after, then Guided Ways Technologies' 2Do is the app for you. You get what you pay for here, and while other apps may shoot for a three dollar threshhold, 2Do goes straight to $6.99. We gotta respect an app that asks to be paid what they think they're worth.
A Lot of Buttons for a Lot of Functionality
And what you get is a Universal app that is frankly gorgeous on the iPad (if a little cramped looking on the iPhone). Buttons buttons buttons galore either way. Eight down the left side of the screen, four across the bottom, and two across the top. And that's just the home page. Tap the Settings button on the bottom right to see how much is packed into this app.
Just So Many Choices and Options
You can turn off some of those eight buttons to the left (or add more), password lock certain calendars, set your maximum distance for proximity alerts, pick your Google Maps style, adjust app badging for all items or overdue or high priority, adjust properties of todo lists, set alert sounds and snooze lengths, turn on mail alerts, sync with Toodledo or MobileMe (we'll see how that plays out), change the app's appearance down to font size and style level, and we've only scratched the surface.
Sync Online or on iOS Device
You create a task by tapping the + sign in the upper right corner. Name your task, give it an action such as emailing, texting or calling someone, type a note to go with it, pick what calendar it goes on, select your start time and due date, set a location, record an audio note to help you remember, tag your task, set levels of task priority, add a picture, choose your alarm sound, provide an URL to travel to, and on and on.
Hugely -- Did We Say, Hugely? We Meant Gigantically Feature-Rich
Whew! It's a lot of work setting up if you want lots of detail, but 2Do is quite content with leaving how much data you want to provide up to you. Then there are shortcuts. Once you've set your location and named it, you can type @ and the name to quickly add things at previously set locations. Syncing your account with Toodledo can make your life easier as you can set tasks at a desktop then get them on your iOS devices.
Above your list of tasks, you can click the sun with a line through it to hide completed tasks from the list or tap the calendar to sort by status, start date, title, etc. There are simply so many ways to configure 2Do that you can really make it fit your life.
And once we made it to near our set location, 2Do notified us when it was running in the background, but not when it was turned off.
Like we said, we don't know exactly what Apple's got in store for their Reminder app and how powerful they intend to make it. A lot can happen between now and September. Early reports suggest that Reminders works even when not actively on which is quite an improvement over how these particular apps work.
Because all three apps very actively measure your location and drained our batteries pretty quickly. You can choose more battery friendly settings to conserve power, which we suspect Apple will do with theirs.
But in this case, if you absolutely need location-based reminders, then open up your wallets, gang, because 2Do simply crushed the competition. While Task Ave wins on simplicity, we wanted more functionality and the ability to notify us from the background and 2Do delivered. And while Locationizer made sure we didn't forget (33 times!), 2Do was quite decent about reminding us sufficiently. But all the tweaks, all the additional options, and the ability to sync devices and our desktop Toodledo accounts kills the competition completely. Well designed with more customizability than you can shake an iPhone 5 at, 2Do is the app to beat.