August 24, 2012, 9:18 PM — Anyone whos ever been late arriving home or to a meeting (and that would never be me!) will appreciate Twist, a free app by Twist and Shout. This app does one thing very wellit tracks your location and notifies those waiting for you of your estimated time of arrival. Heres how it works:
You create a twist (which is what the app calls its notifications) by choosing two thingsyour destination and the people who are to be notified of your whereabouts. As you start typing the address of your destination, Twist provides possible matches, including those from your Contacts. Pins appear on the map which you use to select your destination. From there, you select one or more people to be notifiedeither via your Contacts list or by entering email addresses or phone numbers manually. Lastly, you specify your mode of transportationeither car, bus, walking, or bicycle. Twist then uses local traffic data to plot an optimized route for you, including an estimate of the travel time and your estimated arrival time. Once you confirm everything, then your twist is set.
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The magic happens when you leave your current location. After you get a short distance away, the app sends out its first notification, announcing your departure time and estimated arrival time. Your recipients are notified either by email or SMS, depending on whether you used their email address or their phone number when setting up their twist notification. Alternatively, if your recipients have Twist installed on their devicesand their phone numbers or email addresses have been registered with the developerthe app will send out push notifications rather than text messages or emails.
As you approach your destination, Twist sends out another notification saying that youre about a minute away. Similarly, if it looks like youll miss the original arrival time, then Twist will send out periodic updates until you arrive. Ive used the app only when driving and Ive found that its a little conservative when it calculates arrival times, but its usually close enough for my use.
You can save frequently used twists to your favorites, making them easy to select quickly from the apps opening screen. You can have the app suggest twists from calendar events, invite others to existing twists, attach photos and notes to twist notifications, and the like.
I use the app daily, but tend to skip all the frivolities and focus on the basic features to notify colleagues and my wife of my whereabouts. Ive found that this saves me from sending redundant emails and text messages; more important, it helps me drive more safely while Im en route since Im not tempted to phone, text, or email location updates while Im in the car. For that reason alone, Twist has earned a coveted spot on my home screen.
Brian Beam is a software designer and partner with web development firm BOLD Internet Solutions, living somewhere near Kansas City.