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Location-Based App Grafetee Promises to be More Than Another Location-Based Service Thanks to the Finnish Police?!

Posted by Carter Dotson on October 30th, 2012

Another day, another location-based app, right? Well, Grafetee (pronounced gră-fə-tee,) is really not the same as something like Saga in that it’s meant to be both a location service as well as a framework to integrate in other location services.

Its exclusive functionality is location-based bookmarks. This allows people to share notes based on their current location, including photos. These bookmarks can be shared privately with other users through an 8-digit alphanumeric code, that allows them to join in and create their own notes. For example, a private directory of restaurants and bars visited could be created and shared between friends. This works without logging in to anything, and photos are shareable between platforms, as the app is on both iOS and Android.

But where Grafetee will be at its most immediately interesting for users is the way that it integrates in third-party services: right now, it uses various APIs to add in Foursquare tips, Yelp listings, Flickr and Instagram photos, Geocaches, and even Wikipedia listings nearby. All of these can be toggled as different visual layers, or displayed in a text list.

This is where the developer of the app hopes its long-term value comes from: being able to add in other services to make it more useful. One creative use is in the developer’s native Finland, they made it possible to let users report information to the police with Grafetee. As explained by Juha Huttennen of Grafetee: “The Finnish police for example, is using Grafetee to crowdsource crime-related data that is not urgent. So they don’t want you to use the app instead of calling 911 but they want you to give out data if you find something that threatens security or if there is a distrubance that you want the police to note and perhaps later act on. Like…if there is a street crossing that is dangerous, or if there is a stop sign that people usually disregard or whatever. They want to collect stuff like this from the public, instead of getting these calls to 911 or direct emails complaining about the same things. It definitely helps them to ease their workload and gives the public a channel.” It was launched nationwide in the past weeks. How did Grafetee get involved with the Finnish police? “I called them.”

One of the other benefits of Grafetee’s approach is that it isn’t necessarily crippled if it grows too big for its britches: controversies over shut-off API access have arisen around Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Instagram with Twitter, for example. With Grafetee providing their own bookmarking service, if Foursquare pulls access, they still have other services, including others that may come into the app’s ecosystem, including ones that may pay to be part of the app if it catches on. Given the potential of its open framework and the fact that a governmental organization is already using it, it’s just a question of further adoption by not just users – but those who may get use out of a location-based app like Grafetee.

Meatspace Invasion Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on June 25th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Take the fight to the streets (be safe, look both ways, etc) in this location-based shooter.
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City King Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on May 22nd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: FIGHT FOR IT
Fight for control over real-world locations (literally!) in this location-based social RPG.
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Parallel Mafia Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on April 12th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: CYBORG ENFORCER
Create a mecha-mafia empire in this location-based sim.
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Placesaver Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on March 7th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FIND IT
Placesaver makes marking locations significantly easier and more user-friendly.
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Parallel Universe Review

Posted by Rob Rich on November 15th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Incandescence Studios
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar


Starting up Parallel Universe for the first time was rather confusing for me. It wasn't so much that it was a complicated process, but rather that I was lacking in a proper degree of understanding. At least initially. Even after rereading the press info document (repeatedly) and restarting my map once or twice in order to experiment I was still fairly lost. It wasn't until I'd messed around with it for a couple of days that things finally made sense. For better or worse.

I'll attempt to explain Parallel Universe to the best of my ability so that anyone else attempting to play around with it won't be quite as lost as I was: It's essentially a map-making "game" that utilizes location services and 8-bit graphics. When a map is created, it just sort of exists with the chosen player character (male or female) sitting in the middle of it. Sticking to a small area for a bit will result in the construction and upgrading of buildings, while wandering through the neighborhood will create roads. After a night on the town or even a day at school, portions of the map will start to appear significantly different.

Parallel Universe is most certainly a fascinating idea. The concept of creating a personalized pseudo-fantasy world through a kind of augmented reality is more than a little novel, and watching the world change and grow around my little character is pretty darn cool. I also have to admit, the looped chiptune music fits the tone quite well and manages to avoid becoming obnoxious. So kudos to the sound designer/composer.

The problem I'm running into is that Parallel Universe wasn't really designed with New York living in mind. It doesn't run in the background so as to save battery life, which is a noble gesture but it means that cities will only begin to pop up if it's left on. And walking around Manhattan while staring at my iPhone screen isn't particularly safe. Or smart. I could leave it running and just start walking, but it would still shut itself off after a minute or so. Even sticking to one spot to build cities is fairly unimpressive, as it still requires leaving the app running and constantly tapping the screen to keep it on.

I think Parallel Universe is a fantastic proof-of-concept, but it's going to need a lot of adjustments before it's really any fun. It's more framework than fleshed-out game. I could see things like RPG-style quests, the ability to link images to specific spots on the map (i.e. taking pictures while out for a walk) or even simple stat-tracking making a difference here. I really hope we see some content updates in the future because it shows immense promise.

Toilet Finder! Aims to Make Those Awkward Moments a Bit Less Awkward

Posted by Rob Rich on October 24th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

I imagine suburbanites wouldn't get much use out of it, but us metropolitan... -ites (?) could put 16 year-old app aficionado James Shaw's Toilet Finder! to good use. Well, us and anyone visiting our "fair" city. Lots of tourists fail to come up with a Potty Plan when they set out on their walking tours and whatnot.

It's a common problem when anyone is oot and aboot in unfamiliar territory. Someone has to "go," and no one knows where the nearest restroom is. It typically leads to one of two scenarios: either the twitchy individual leaves the pack to look for one on their own, which usually takes a lot longer than expected, or they all wander off and waste time that could have been better spent on other things. This is exactly why Toilet Finder! was created.

The app uses the GPS to automatically find and display all known toilets in the immediate area. Conveniently displayed in either map, satellite or hybrid styles. Any crap-tanks in the database will also be accompanied by an address and phone number, just in case it's late at night or in a weird location. And just to make things even more helpful, the app can provide directions to the desired bathroom.

Sounds useful, no? Toilet Finder! is in the App Store right now for a dollar. Given the amount of time and/or money one could waste while searching for an "outlet" - I'm inclined to think it might be worth it.

Localmind Gets a 1.5 Update, Includes Pictures

Posted by Rob Rich on August 18th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: LOCAL ANSWERS :: Read Review »

I must admit, the existence of Localmind is something I wasn't even aware of until recently. Now I'm wondering why that is, since it's a rather ingenious app. Utilizing an iOS device's GPS in order to let users ask and answer questions about various destinations in their area seems like the kind of thing that's both ahead of its time and has been a long time coming. It's odd that it's taken so long, I know.

So recently Localmind (the developer) released a new update for Localmind (the app) which includes a slew of new things. A number of them are being touted as mostly unnoticeable but still important (i.e. small tweaks and such). However, there are also a trio of specific additions that users have been clamoring for.

First, users can now use photos to answer questions which can provide some (I would imagine) very handy visual aids, such as an honest look at how long a line might be. Second, it's now possible to answer past questions and those that have already been answered, adding a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) impression. Third, and perhaps most puzzling for a "Top 3 Requested Features" feature, is the ability to turn off the anonymous feature and use a real name and/or portrait. I'm not entirely sure about how essential that last one is, but I can certainly see how the other two options can be handy.

Localmind is the kind of app that can certainly be useful to just about anyone on certain occasions, such as when going to the movies or heading off to the airport. Folks such as myself in major metropolitan areas will no doubt get even more use out of it. Regardless, anyone who leaves the house every now and then would do well to check this out. Especially given the increased usefulness with this update.

Loopt Is Still Plugging Away

Posted by Chris Hall on December 7th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Before anyone knew what location aware apps were, before Foursquare, MyTown, and the like were house brands, there was Loopt. Everyone on the planet (maybe a slight exaggeration) had Loopt, but nobody really knew what to do with it. After a few weeks of use, Loopt eventually became a personal stalking app for the willing, allowing you to knowingly let your friends GPS track you as you go about your day. Years later, Loopt has hit 4.0 and is still trying to show its 4+ million users why it is relevant. Now though, it really is pretty neat.

Like before, Loopt works by connecting you to your Loopt friends (who I'd hope are your real friends) by showing you where everyone is on a map. Instead of just tracking people, Loopt is now socially aware, allowing you to not only check in to places, but also invite friends to where you are at. Let's say that you go to your favorite burger place and want your friend(s) to join. Instead of leaving the app to send some texts, Loopt allows you to punch in a message (called a Ping) that instantly alerts the other users mobile device (allowing them to send a "Pong" with their location and reply).

Working nice with Facebook Places, Loopt is now a fully operational check-in service too. You can't become the mayor of every place you walk to, but it does have a really cool area that shows you what is going on around town and which places your friends like the best. With the location aware feature, Loopt also tells you when and where rewards are around you that companies may have left for people checking into certain places, just to add something tangible to your check-in experience.

Also nice, and of interest, is the ability to toggle and edit the auto update feature. Instead of just blasting out your location for everyone you know to see, you can choose who sees you and where. If you want everyone still tracking you, you can do that, but if you want certain people to only see you if they are within a certain range, or not at all, you can do that too.

As always, Loopt is a completely free app and can be downloaded right now in the App Store. Getting users to download it years after it was all the rage could be an issue, but the new features just may make it worthy of a second (or third, or fourth) look.