Twist: a simple and user-friendly application that gives your friends your travel ETA

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At The Verge, we love apps that remember things for us. Microsoft on {X} offers a plethora of options for Android, but not everyone wants to customize a script to use the power of phones. The more specific and accessible iOS app Twist, however, combines geolocation and automatic text messaging to take care of a common task: notifying your friends when you leave to meet them. Twist is intended to aggregate data from all the apps you normally use while traveling or going out: Yelp, Maps, Weather, and Messages. Its main purpose, however, is to send text messages with your departure or arrival time. It’s been quietly available on iTunes for some time, so we decided to give it a try.

After setting a few simple options (where you are going, the mode of transport and who you want to notify), Twist will detect when you are gone and send an SMS; each one-way trip is known as a “turn”. The app also gives you options on the number of SMS to send: your friends can receive one when you leave, during the trip or when you are about to arrive. During the trip, the app runs in the background and the traveler can see what they sent. If both parties are using Twist, the recipient can receive push notifications instead.

In terms of technology, Twist is essentially a social tracking system. Google Latitude, which allows users to periodically (or continuously) share locations with a group of friends. It even uses the Maps API and Google Street View. That said, Twist has made some welcome changes to the system. Unlike Latitude, you can check ETAs, and trips are organized into discrete “twists” rather than a permanent sharing pattern. Your friends aren’t told the exact address you’re starting from, and each twist is sent only to the people you choose. Best of all, Twist doesn’t require the recipient to use the app – they just need to be prepared to receive a few texts from them. This combination means that people who would find Latitude scary at best can still get updates, and the rest of us can let a friend know when we arrive without worrying about them following our every move afterward.

Twist’s interface is frankly not very appealing, but its organization is stellar. Two large tiles at the top are permanently linked to presets for work and home, so you don’t have to choose a recipient list every time. You can ‘register’ the phone via SMS to communicate with friends using the app instead of text messages, but Twist won’t push you to do so, making the barrier to use refreshing. We wouldn’t mind a bit more customization, like the ability to change the names of your Home and Work tiles or set automatic repeating twists, but overall it strikes a good balance between flexibility and usability. While some of the more residual features seem a bit unnecessary at this point, basic functionality is a must. We can only hope for an Android version soon.

Update: Twist has reached out to us in the comments below to let us know that the current version is still in beta and will officially launch on July 18. We’ll take another look when it arrives!

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