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Go Notes: GPS Location Reminders

A shot of the opening screen of GoNotes

Everyone goes through a ritual when leaving the house. Checking your pockets, you run through the checklist, keys, wallet, phone… That was the origin for the 42 Solutions Android app GoNotes, the GPS Location Reminder.

Already enthusiastic about building apps for Android devices, Partners Dan Kellner and Colin Ferm began brainstorming an app that would remind users to check that they had everything before leaving the house. But as discussions continued, the realization occurred that it didn’t just have to be someone’s house where they received reminders. It could be anywhere.

The Challenge

How often does someone go to the store intending to buy one thing only to walk out with a bag but not the thing they came in for? If you live in New York City and do most of your shopping at the bodegas around town, it happens too often.

42 Solutions thought it could solve it with the one device people carry with them everywhere, their phones.

Already enabled with GPS and Google Maps, 42 Solutions believed it could meet the challenge through a unique blending of two existing core features to build a simple but functional app that users could set reminders on for when they were at specific places.

The Process

Having never built an app that relied so heavily on positioning, the 42 Solutions technology team first set about writing a library to manage location changes and firing events. This was tested over and over again to ensure as accurate a reading as possible at any given time, delighting passerby’s as a train of geeks meandered down the streets of Brooklyn with a test device connected to a laptop so they could read the logs.

42 Solutions thought it could solve it with the one device people carry with them everywhere, their phones.

While the technology team was out and about, the design team was hard at work putting together a one of a kind user experience. Determined not to use the standard Android user interface because of the general level of clunkiness, they went instead with a colorful “Post It” metaphor, brightening up what might otherwise be a dreary experience.

Once the design was finished and the GPS library tested, the two teams came together to integrate them into an app. While the design team created the layouts, the technology team was busy creating the individual “activities” that a user would interact with.

A screen was built to display the active notes, reminders that were waiting to be within the set radius to show. Other screens were built to list notes by location, edit notes, and delete notes. To add a new location, a user merely had to find where it was on an integrated Google Map, mark the position, and give it a name. Then any amount of notes could be added to it, to fire the next time they were there.

Once assembled, the difficult stage began, testing.

Now, instead of just the technology team running around the streets with a device connected to a laptop, it was everyone, noting when a reminder wasn’t shown and saving the logs to be dissected later.

After a few weeks of testing, both formally and informally between other 42 Solutions projects, and becoming confident that GoNotes was fully functional, it was launched on the Android Marketplace as the first app of its kind in June of 2010.

The Result

GoNotes provided a cautionary tale for 42 Solutions. No matter how much testing you think you might have done, sometimes it’s never enough.

Several of the early reviews noted that GoNotes crashed on their devices and 42 Solutions rushed to find a fix and push it to the market. After all, just because a customer pays $0.99 doesn’t mean their experience is worth the same.

Soon after releasing the fix, several positive comments were made on the marketplace and sales, well, sales remained slow. On average, GoNotes sold about three a week, not exactly the bestseller we’d been hoping for but providing both the design and technology teams a valuable lesson while they gained experience developing for the new platform.

Because of the problems with the initial release, 42 Solutions now implements a much wider testing protocol than we’d previously believed to be necessary. Always aiming to test on as many devices as possible, 42 Solutions works with our friends and business partners to ensure the apps we build work across the spectrum of the Android ecosystem.

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42 Solutions

Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.