Unidentified Bogies Appear on Earthcomber's Personal Radar

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earthcomber iphone appEarthcomber, the developer of Earthcomber the app, aims to provide iPhone users with a "personal radar," which they can use to find their favorite things nearby — people and places, mainly.

Earthcomber is location aware, so you usually won't need to go far to find whatever you're looking for. As you would expect, the app works best with the GPS built into the iPhone 3G and over Wi-Fi. You have the option of entering your zip code into Earthcomber to fix your location, so no worries.

Earthcomber is capable of searching for a wide variety of public places in your immediate locale, ranging from ATMs, to restaurants, to free Wi-Fi, to live music, and it seems, everything else that you might want. First, tap the "Explore" icon. Next, tap restaurants, for example, and up comes a list of eateries within about 10 miles of your location. Tap the name of the restaurant, and you'll get an address, telephone number, directions and a map.

Earthcomber has a number of other features, all of which require registering with Earthcomber's Web site to access them. Two key features worth noting are, one, the ability to create "My Radar," a personalized list of your favorite people and places and, two, share your location and status with other people (you can show your visibility to everyone in your favorites or limit it to a select few).

The  interface is a bit clunky and old-fashioned in look and feel. At times, Earthcomber was just plain quirky. The lists of nearby locations changed quit a bit even though I changed my location by only 1 mile.

In another instance, Earthcomber displayed a list with the same item repeated seven times. In yet another instance, I found misspellings in the names of some sites (Cardnial Spelling Philatelc Museum).

When I looked for places near me that offered free Wi-Fi, one place, the Simple Cafe was near the bottom of the list. The problem is the Simple Cafe is 165 miles from me, in Brooklyn, according to Earthcomber. That's hardly nearby and besides, Brooklyn, is a bit more than 200 miles from me (I know this because I often travel to NYC, including Brooklyn).

Earthcomber is hardly compelling. The idea is fine; but the implementation is goofy.

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  • http://mobile.earthcomber.com Jim Brady

    Michael - first, thanks for really taking a look at this app. With so many out there, it's not surprising anymore you get about a micro-second of anyone's attention.

    Totally agree about the goofy listing - that's a problem integrating Eventful; might not be worth fixing, since most of their stuff seems to be "zip code" gps. Not all that useful when it comes to getting directions.

    Now, a few wags of the finger. First, big apology out there to all the philatelic folks for that dropped "i". That's got to hurt. Stil, I don't see much use in stopping to run spell check on all partner listings we pass through. Users mostly want results on the screen in under a few minutes.

    Another: You move a mile and the lists "changed quite a bit"? You didn't say where you live. In all urban areas, even suburbs, yeah, things do change in a mile. People want to know when they're right at an ATM, not when they need to hike backwards, right? Our rule is to scan every 5 minutes if you have moved more than 30 meters. The point you miss is that Earthcomber can discover things even when you least expect them - but the chances go down if you have GPS off. To me, the ideal is being able to glance at that screen like you glance at your watch. That's mobile technology working for you. That's real serendipity, and there is no other application that will make that happen for your personal interests. We (Earthcomber) need to bring that out more, and yes, the interface needs help there.

    Last wag. If a free WiFi place 165 miles away shows up at the bottom of your list, that's the reason why. You didn't mention any closer ones above it, but I'm guessing something was pushing it to the bottom. Your point is just that 165 miles isn't close. What if you're crossing the country,Wyoming, Nevada? Might help. We put 'em in order of closeness, and you decide. BTW, distances are measured in straight lines for list purposes. If you punch up turn-by-turn directions, also free on Earthcomber, you get exact mileage.

    Thanks again for the review, and letting us where the bruises show up. I'll keep on guard for angry philatelicists; and, word for the wise, you might want to watch overhead. Bogies, by definition, *are* unidentified. And you don't want to rile those Area 51 people - they make philatelicists look like stamp collectors.

  • Michael Alexander

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for setting me straight on those points. The last thing I want is fail to give an app every opportunity it deserves when I review it. You're right, I should have mentioned my location (suburbs). I just didn't think of it.

    I liked the serendipity aspect of the app. I discovered places around me that I did not know existed. I'll probably check out some of them the next time I'm looking for something to do.

    I do think the issue of look and feel is an important one. Things like misspellings and goofy behavior caused me to ask myself whether the developer did a thorough job and whether the app could be relied on. "If the developer missed those things, what other things, might they not have done correctly?" That's a big issue because with the amount of competition out there, it's easy for a user to drop an app like the proverbial hot potato and try something else.