The developer of Facebook’s Timeline feature, Nicholas Feltron, has come out with a new application for iPhone called Reporter. The app, which costs $4 on the App Store, uses surveys to collect information about your life in a way that is incredibly streamlined, and minimally intrusive. How it works: it randomly “checks in” with you 6 times during the day to see if you’re at work, you drank coffee today, who you saw, etc. It’s not, as with some apps, simply a glorified journal. It activates the pure potential of a smartphone, “understanding the things you care about; designed for discovery” (from the Reporter app’s website). These surveys are meant to give you a much better understanding of how you live your life on a whole. Autocomplete advances and improves over time and “gets to know you” the more you use the app.
Reporter uses your microphone and location to track your habits. Things Reporter can just “know” about you includes weather, how many photos you’ve taken/uploaded today, how many steps you’ve taken, and even noise level of your location (which it also knows, of course). You tell it what you’ve eaten/drank today, who you’re with, and respond to other questions it asks in the survey which gives the app the best sense of “you”.
Reporter’s app is certainly streamlined and gorgeous, but the visuals are where Nike+ technology is really given space to shine. Nike+ is not chiefly an app, but a tool for integrated fitness monitoring. It also uses FuelBand, a device you wear when you exercise that connects your habits to a database, which it visually represents for the user. Nike’s “Year in Nike Fuel” presents a year’s worth of exercise habits and accomplishments, which individual users can opt in on sharing with their Nike+ community, in order to compare and contrast habits.
Reporter for iPhone allows you to export your information via Dropbox and as CSV or JSON formats, and Nike+ FuelBand users have the option to download their individualized data portrait. Worded as an “option” to share your reports, although little mention of how your information is not from the app, but from outsiders—when you put such intimate information as your location at any given time, and your habits, into an app, still raises discomfort in some users. And with Facebook knowing our most intimate details, the NSA hacking into iPhone microphones—we are very aware that we are being tracked by the devices we can’t live without, and that privacy is often compromised for a feeling of community and progress. These apps combat that by focusing on a sense of ownership over their final, visual analytics. Users have a sense of ownership over this data created from their habits, which is an indicator of an understanding of their vaguely wary, tech-savvy, progress-oriented market.
I can see this model of habit-monitoring apps with gorgeous, streamlined, representative design taking off as its own medium. As customizable, visually stunning, intuitive apps that ensure their users both intimacy and community, this model for intricate, personalized infographics could continue to improve the way individuals can utilize some of the technology and devices we are just barely cracking the potential of.