Editor’s Note: Today, I’m pleased to announce a guest post by the founder of pinglio, Patrick Bisch. Go check out his blog, where he writes about the latest gadgets, apps, and social media. You can also follow Patrick on Twitter @patbisch.
We’re right smack-dab in the middle of SXSW, and a handful of startups have debuted or updated their applications for public consumption. One of those startups is Work Camp, Inc., a company that recently released an app called Highlight. It’s an iPhone-only app that aims to connect you with people around you who have similar interests as you and does so in a unique way. CNET named it one of the hottest new apps of SXSW, so it has to be good, right?
What is Highlight?
Highlight searches for interesting people around you. Its founder, Paul Davison, said during an interview with Robert Scoble that the app will search for people within “a block or two”. Once it finds people it’ll determine if they have anything in common with you – whether it be mutual friends, similar interests, or past experiences like attending the same school. From there you can “highlight” people, which are like public bookmarks on people that interest you, or message them to chat or meet up. It’s virtual networking in real time. Creating an account with Highlight is easy because it ties into your Facebook account pulling all your info, pictures, and interests. Currently, there is no way to manually create an account or sign in using other social networks like Twitter.
Highlight does a pretty good job connecting you with potential friends, colleagues, or whatever type of relationship you can create with strangers (stalkers, stay away). I say it’s “pretty good” because there’s power in numbers, and depending on where you live, Highlight may be the best or worst app you’ve ever used. Living in Chicago, a city of 2.5 million people, I’ve only had 6 different people show up on my Highlight feed and I’ve been using it for almost 2 weeks now. On the other hand, if you live in Ravanna, Kansas, it’s more than likely you’ll loathe this app and tap-wiggle-delete it right off your springboard. It seems Highlight currently works best in tech-dominant cities like San Francisco and now Austin, Texas, the temporary home of SXSW.
Where It Falls Short
Right before Apple unveiled the new iPad last week, I suspected Tim Cook and his crew of Apple minions devised a plan to sabotage my iPhone’s battery. It started draining at an unbelievable rate; I’m talking 100% when I woke up and down to 60% just 3 hours later. How could this be happening? Sure, having my Wi-Fi turned on 24/7 doesn’t help, but that couldn’t drain my battery this fast, right?
It was a few days later that I realized what was causing my iPhone’s energy deficiency: Highlight. Gasp! How could this be? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Highlight is constantly using your iPhone’s GPS signal. Pair that alongside constant network usage to see who’s around, and you have yourself a recipe for a sad battery. The company has no denial however, and they even state on the Highlight App Store page that
…continued use of GPS running in the background can significantly affect your battery life. We are working to optimize this with each release, so installing updates will help!
Indeed, installing updates will help, and although there has only been one update so far, the battery issue still persists.
When an app is constantly logging your physical location, a user’s natural concern is privacy. Currently there are two options for your privacy: share your profile with 1) everyone or 2) friends of friends only. You can also pause Highlight from tracking you until the next time you open the app. I personally don’t like that Highlight reactivates after pausing it just by simply opening the app. I think the pause button should really act as a “play” button, too.
There has also been some talk about privacy issues with Highlight. John Biggs of TechCrunch reported that he received a text from a friend using the app who apparently invited 141 of their contacts to try out Highlight. Biggs happened to be one of those contacts, but what was peculiar was that he was able to see the other 140 people’s phone numbers that it was sent to. It sounds like the developers simply send out a group text whenever users decide to “invite” their contacts.
Hit or Miss?
So is Highlight living its 15 minutes of fame or will it be the next big thing? I’m willing to bet it will be a total flop even considering its lifespan has only been about 2 months now. I feel like the app was rushed out to be released in time for SXSW, and despite what CNET has to say, won’t make it through the coming months. Even if I’m wrong, the Highlight developers really need to nail the battery issue and tweak the privacy controls to be more specific before this thing is going anywhere.
But don’t take my word for it, try Highlight yourself. See if it’s something you can imagine yourself using months from now. Then come back here and tell me how right/wrong I am in the comments below.