Twisted Beginnings

I’m trying out “Twist,” an iOS app that I didn’t know existed an hour ago. Just a minute after hearing about it and downloading it, I started hoping that I wind up using it every day of my life. It was just released this morning.

[Edited to add: and I was so excited to leave the house and try it out that I forgot to embed a link. Here’s where to find it in the iTunes store.]

It’s exactly what I’ve been wishing for ever since I got a GPS-enabled phone. It’s a destination-oriented social app. I regularly meet with a friend an hour away to get comics and then eat lunch. I can usually predict my arrival time within a half an hour. I thought I was out the door, but then I got an email as I was docking my iPhone in the car that forced me to turn around and reopen my office. To say nothing of the problems of traffic.

So usually, after I pull off the highway I pull into a gas station and send him an updated text that tells him I’m close. He acknowledges, he starts to wrap up what he’s doing, and then heads out. He can have his own troubles. I don’t know how long I’ll be waiting for him at the comic book shop.

Twist attempts to fix all of that. I’ve defined “Comics with Karl” as a regular event, and set it up with info about the destination, the people I’m meeting there, and how I’d like them to be informed about my progress. Karl will know that I’ve only just left the house, despite the fact that I IM’d him twenty minutes ago to say I’m “headed out the door right now,” and he can get a predicted ETA (based on current traffic conditions) any time he likes.

Let’s see if I like Twist enough to write a formal review. But they’re definitely on to something. A great product usually solves a universal problem. ETAs are the pain and stress that unite us all, whether you’re worried about making people wait or wandering the aisles of a comic book shop and wondering if something’s happened to Karl.

Nice touch: it works great if the people you’re meeting are using Twist, but the app can also just send plain text messages.

They done good by getting lots of press attention with their launch. They done…maybe not so good with the first-launch fit and finish experience of the app. Four grumbles so far:

1) Slight shock when the “walkthru of the features” slideshow pulled data from my address book and integrated it into the presentation. “Isn’t that interesting?” I thought. “The developer is a big fan of comics. Cool, he seems to know a lot of the same artists I know. Hey…those are their real addresses!”

2) When setting a destination, the search feature seems to think that Proximity is more valuable than Familiarity. I typed in the name of the comic book store (which is in my address book) but Twist actually found and Destinated a flower shop three miles away, which it found via a websearch. Whiskey tango foxtrot?

3) In choosing people to add to the event, it sorts the list by first name. Oh, dear.

4) Didn’t I read somewhere that you could trigger an “ETA in X minutes” alert? I thought I read somewhere that you could set things up to trigger an “ETA in X minutes” alert. Maybe I was wrong about the “ETA in X minutes” alert. I can’t seem to find it.

And none of these are buzzkills. But it goes to show you the value of every single hour a developer spends spends on honing that first-launch experience.

Well, off I go. I borrowed a friend’s Bluetooth mouse last week and I was going to return it in a few days…but now I’ve a good business excuse to actually treat the timely return of a friend’s kindly-lent property as though it were a high priority.

Cool! It’s also smart enough that if I choose “Gern Blansten” from my address book as my destination address, it automatically chooses Gern’s mobile number for automatic notifications. Off to a great start already.

Push the button, Frank…

[Second update: it seems to work great. My pal showed me his phone. He got a message alerting him that he was about to receive some texts related to my trip (sent when I activated the Twist), a second one when I was underway (which included an ETA), and a third when I was nearly there.

I still wish there was a way for the app to generate a “I’m 10 minutes away” heads-up. That’s my killer feature. An initial ETA is subject to wild adjustments and an “arrival imminent” alert isn’t as useful as one that says “Yes, you have time to visit the men’s room before he gets here.”]

8 thoughts on “Twisted Beginnings

  1. Jason Baldwin

    I’ve tried a few of these. Glympse is neat, but it’s too many taps, and it doesn’t automatically update anything. iETA has a Google-font-library interface that looks crazy-wrong on the iPhone, and it while it pulls contacts from the address book for the person you’re sending it to, it insists on a web search of the destination and doesn’t pull from the address book at all, which is frustrating. Twist is the best I’ve seen so far, even though I don’t have a lot of use for it (yet).

  2. Paul

    Great write up and story telling.

    But, say, an even easier solution is to simply be there for lunch dates on time!

  3. Mike Hodos

    I am a big fan of Glympse and have been using it for a long time. You can make a Home Screen shortcut to a favorite Glympse, mine is to let my wife know I’m on my way. Click the shortcut, click Done, and that’s it. It sends her a text and an email with a link to a live map of my location with an estimated time of arrival that changes with conditions.

  4. Wes Chamness

    Very useful app for being social.

    I was about to grab it based on your initial excitement in this post, but sadly it is not available in the UK app store.

  5. Barbara


    I didn’t know you could do that! I use Glympse sporadically and that’s a good tip.

  6. Sharon Sharalike

    Looks promising. There are some issues, but maybe they’re IOS 6 related. I can’t simply define “Home” using my current location. And there’s no way I can do it by typing my address (I’m in Thailand). It knows where I am, but there’s no way to say “yes, that’s home.”
    It also couldn’t properly search my contacts. I have to assume that’s an IOS 6 issue, as it would be nearly useless otherwise.

  7. Jan

    Great tip. It is nice a way of letting people you are meeting where you are and if you are running late. It will also let them know if you are on time so that they can plan accordingly.

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