By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm
How many times in your life have you called someone to tell him or her where you were–or to admit that you had no idea where you were? If your sense of direction is as lousy as mine, the answer is “lots.” Glympse, a free new application for GPS-enabled smartphones launched this week at the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, aims to provide a simpler way to clue people into your location than craning your neck for street signs or local landmarks while you’re on the phone.
Conceptually, Glympse couldn’t be much simpler: The app locates you on a map, then lets you send a message via SMS or e-mail to anyone in your address book, with a brief customizable note from you and a link to an online map showing where the heck you are. You can optionally also mark your destination on the map.
If the people you ping have Glympse installed, he or she can view this “Glympse” of your whereabouts in the app; otherwise, they see it in their browser.
You can also set how long a Glympse of your location is available–from zero seconds (which means the recipient can only see where you were when you sent the Glympse) to four hours (which means that the recipient can keep tabs on your wanderings for that duration). Glympses have no security–the person who receives one can forward it to someone else, who can then peek at your location–but the four-hour maximum ensures that you won’t accidentally let a stalker spy on you forever.
A version of Glympse for Google’s Android OS (ie, the T-Mobile G1) is available now; as you can tell from the screenshots above, the company provided me with early access to an iPhone edition, which is due soon along with ones for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones. The service is currently in beta, and shows it: I ran into some glitches such as Glympses which were temporarily unavailable, and one which declared that I was traveling at 23 miles an hour when I was actually lounging around the house. I also wish that the map that Glympse displays in mobile browsers was zoomed in a bit more, so more street names showed–or, better yet, that the app was able to launch Google Maps on a smartphone, so Glympse recipients could do things with your location such as plot directions from their location to yours. (The version of Glympse for desktop browsers has more features, including zooming and panning and satellite photos.)
Oh, and even though you can customize the SMS or e-mail text you send, you can’t change the subject line of e-mail messages, and the one you get is a tad cryptic for my tastes. The messages I send say “You have been invited to Glympse Harry”–wouldn’t something like “Here’s Harry’s current location, courtesy of Glympse” be clearer?
Glympse isn’t perfect, but it’s a neat idea with plenty of potential. The next time I’m lost and/or late for an appointment, I plan to use it–and I suspect I won’t have to wait too long until I need it.