With over 150,000 apps now available via the iTunes App Store, original and potentially life-changing offerings are increasingly few and far between.
However, this week a new Tokyo-based developer appeared on the scene, showcasing three new apps at TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR event, held Tuesday at Super Deluxe.
Due to technologistical restrictions, it’s only today that the Professor has been able to publish these videos in the public realm.
Professor Appleton, now based in Japan, has been researching mobile technologies since the 1940s, and his offerings clearly demonstrate the deep understanding he has of the needs of mobile users today.
When I first heard that Domino’s Pizza in Japan had released an iPhone app, to be honest I wasn’t tremendously excited. After all, such apps have been available in the US App store since it opened up. But after a quick review of the announcement, I had to admit I was dying to try it out.
Dominos’ highlight three points for this app. Easy, GPS, and Coupon, and they hit each point right on the head.
Easy: The app is quite well designed and very comfortable to use. After logging into your Domino’s Pizza web account (you must create the account on a PC. There is a reason for this), you can place an order for anything on the Domino’s online menu. The menu looks nice and is fast, offering all the options you would expect like half/half pizza’s, custom toppings, side dishes, and size and crust selection.
The interface is pretty intuitive and I was easily able to load up my order into the cart and confirm my order. The whole thing took just about 5 minutes, and most of that was deciding what to order.
GPS: Here is the big surprise. You are prompted to pick your delivery location. The quick option is to select your preregistered address, but you can also use the GPS function of the iPhone to automatically pick up your location. Once your location comes up on the map, you can move it around to correct the fix or pinpoint a better location for a pickup.
You can even select a non-fixed address like a park or public building. With Cherry Blossom season about to hit Japan, this is a killer function. In a few weeks, parties will flood public parks across the country and anyone with an iPhone will be able to easily summon extra food directly to the spot they are staked out. You can also enter a street address as a backup in case they miss you, and of course the drivers can call the phone number you registered on your account (best to use your iPhone number I would assume).
When I tested this out, I picked a street corner down the block from my apartment. My plan was to head out and wait at the corner to see if the delivery guys would give me my pie right there. Ironically this didn’t work out because the food came early. So just as I was getting ready to head downstairs, the doorbell rang and there was my food! Well, can’t really complain about that right? I did confirm with the delivery guy that he would have been ok delivering on the street, but since I wasn’t there and my registered address was just down the block he decided to try my apartment before calling my cell.
Coupon: Actually had a lot of fun with this. The app also includes a simple game where you try to slice a pizza into evenly sized slices. with the points you win from the game, you can buy coupons.
There are currently three coupons you can win that will get you a free 1 liter bottle of Coke, an order of cheezy fries, and a dried potato/chicken nugget pack. You can even use all three coupons on the same order, but it took me around half an hour to get enough points to buy all three coupons. Still it’s a fun way to add free stuff to your order.
I have to say I am very impressed with the app. It’s useful, fun and adds something new. Also the timing is perfect and I can image I will be using this this spring as the weather gets better.
Now if only Starbucks would offer a similar app for GPS based coffee delivery!
Using it is very simple. You can ignore all the Japanese.
- Tap the big black button in the middle.
- Say the name of your starting station. Pause a moment. Say the name of your destination station.
- Add the word “まで” (ma-de = ‘to’).
- Press the button in the middle again.
The app will now connect and search for your route (this only takes a few seconds. Of course you must have a data connection).
The results screen shows several results, one of which is bound to match yours. Not once has it failed to place my route at the top of the list. As you can see, it’s in English and Japanese, so this is a great way to see how station names are written in Japanese too.
Having selected your route, the detailed results page appears. Yes, it’s all in Japanese, but even if you don’t read Japanese you can see all the important info, including time taken, cost and the number of changes. The route is diplayed below.
Click on the car / map option (地図によるルート）to see the route on the apps built-in map (image 4).
You can then click on マップ (top right) to view the map in the iPhone’s native Google Maps app (image 5).
Like many of these kinds of navigation apps (such as the Tokyo Metro App), Koetan! does not provide you with real-time timetable information – it’ll just give you the route and time it’ll take, so if you need precise timings you’ll still need an app such as Ekitan (Japanese only).
Another limitation is the fact that it only covers Tokyo (no Saitama, no Chiba etc) – no doubt this limitation is one reason it’s so accurate in terms of voice recognition, as there’s not all that much for the software to choose from.
However, this app is a fantastic way to quickly get this basic info without having to type in the station names, which is often the thing that causes the most problems for non-Japanese speakers.
One thing I was always wanted to be able to do with my old phone in Japan was check train times. Yes, you can do that with Japanese phones already, but the interface is enough to put off anyone who finds Kanji challenging.
Ekitan for the iPhone has changed all of that. Whilst it stills works primarily in Japanese (a recent update means you can now enter station names in Romaji, but the search results are still only displayed in Kanji), the interface is so beautifully intuitive that it doesn’t really require much bravery to use.
It will not only tell you what time the trains are leaving – it also gives you the price, number of changes, time taken, alternative routes and the status of all railways (useful to find out it there’s any serious delays).
The update to version 2.1.1 (iTunes Link) brought significant improvements, with the addition of GPS support. Not sure which station you’re at? Ekitan will use GPS to figure it out! There’s also bookmarks for those regular commutes, and a detailed search history.
The recent introduction of an English keyboard is a clear attempt to better serve the many iPhone-wielding foreigners in Japan, so my guess is that we can only see further improvements there in due course, such as the introduction of romaji names for all stations.
This post is an expanded version of that featured on my other blog, The Daily Mumble. Whilst not strictly Japan related I thought I’d post it anyway!
As of today, I’m offering Mumblers the opportunity to join me on my morning jog. Yes, you too can come to Komozawa Koen, enjoy the sights of the running track, go faster, go slower, go uphill, go downhill …and all without breaking a sweat. Courtesy of (what else but) the iPhone.
Courtesy of this amazing gadget and a new app, my runs (that’s different from ‘the runs’…) are now added to the social networking site EveryTrail. If I take any photos along my route, they are magically uploaded to the Google map in the correct location – I really don’t have to do much to create the little show other than press ‘Start’ when I leave the house and ‘Stop’ when I get home (and ‘Take Photo’ when I want to).
This also shows speed, altitude, and the amount of sweat soaking my T-shirt.
This morning I was out of the house by 7am, inspired by *Twinkle* who had left at 6.15am to attend a (free) morning business seminar run by the owner of a famous izakaya (Japanese bar) in Shibuya.
Up until now I’ve been using RunKeeper. Unfortunately RunKeeper has consistently let me down, with it losing the GPS signal mid-run and thus producing incorrect statistics. RunKeeper had problems maintaining the GPS signal even in areas where GoogleMaps was working fine.
I’ve only used EveryTrail a couple of times, but I must say, I’ve been mightily impressed. It’s been totally reliable, accurate, and sexy. It also integrates with Facebook took, allowing one to easily post trips to one’s profile.
That’s what we like – a bit of social networking to get up out of the house!
I was sitting in Kitanomura park at lunchtime, eating my carrot and daikon salad, whilst watching the children play.
I wondered what the view from my bench might look like at other times of year, so I tapped the screen of my iPhone once, and a few seconds later was presented with a whole collection of photos taken within metres of where I sat, including one of the very bench I was sitting on. Someone else was sitting on it.