I can't wait for better location awareness features in phones

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: August 21, 2013

Our phones are smart gadgets. Computers, even. They help us in a lot of different ways, depending on what you may need it for at any given moment. I use my phone a lot to capture notes when I need them, and if I've forgotten my notebook and pen (yes, I still use them). And since I don't have a traditional camera, my phone is the way that I capture moments when the moment beckons to be captured.

Those abrupt note taking situations were one of the reasons why I loved the Galaxy Note II so much. That S Pen just made taking notes so awesome on a smartphone. No more tap-tap-tap on a keyboard to capture a quick thought. Just slide out the S Pen and write as I would normally. Easy, and caught somewhere in the future while still tugging on the strings of the old.

I love that our phones can be a vehicle to carry us into the future, but still find ways to give us access to the ways we used to do things. Reading books, poems, or just the news has been shoved into the future, for example. Technology progresses constantly forward, and our phones (and tablets) are a means for us to get there.

And, as with everything, there are certain things we'll see come and go. It'll be a cool, talked about feature for a little while, but then it'll fade away into the night, and be forgotten. Not forever, mind you. Fads usually come back, with a vengeance. And in this particular case, I hope that is indeed the situation I have to look forward to -- sooner, rather than later.

Do you remember Apple's "Find My Friends?" How about Google's "Latitude?" These were both features that allowed you to find your friends. To basically keep tabs on them, to find where they are, what they're doing, and hopefully get the opportunity to join in. Or something. Admittedly, when you say it like that, it sounds pretty creepy. However, I used it a few times to meet up with friends, or help with directions, and I have to be honest: I really liked it. I knew that it wasn't going to pick up, though, so I basically just stopped using it altogether.

Which goes to show why I'm using the past tense when I'm referring to Apple's Find my Friends, despite the fact the feature still exists in all its faux-leather glory. It does certainly still exist, and I'm sure there are some people out there who use it, but it's one of those things that Apple doesn't even really talk about anymore. It's out there, doing stuff, but it's been regulated into the shadows.

I actually want that idea added back into the mix. But, I want a bit more awareness. Specifically, I want it to work with things like Apple's Siri, or Google Now. I know it may sound crazy, because no one wants to be stalked or anything (seriously, don't stalk), but I think if we could utilize that same location awareness for things like reminders, that could be pretty cool.

We already have reminders that work for certain GPS-based locations. I can tell Siri that I want to be reminded to download a song, or look something up on the Internet when I get home. As long as my address is stored correctly, my phone will remind me when I get home to download the song, or look up whatever I wanted to look up on the Internet.

A few nights ago I was trying to remind myself to ask a friend of mine a question. I would have normally text him, but he was on his way to meet me, so I figured I could wait. And for a moment I wanted to pull out my phone, and tell it to remind me to ask the question when my friend showed up. Then I realized that'd be silly, because my phone would have no way of knowing.

What if it did, though? As with Apple's Find My Friends, what if you could provide access to your location for only certain people, and when you got within a certain distance, all sorts of different things could be made available.

Awareness on our phones, or how other devices react to our phones within a certain distance, is some "Minority Report" shenanigans, but I think it would be pretty cool. It'd be better than video advertisements yelling at me, based on my past shopping habits, anyway.

What do you think of something like that? Would you benefit from a reminder when your friend, family member, or other loved one showed up around you? What else could that sort of location-aware technology be used for, specifically for when our friends get close enough? Let me know what you think!

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