Apple’s Find My Friends (now combined with Find My iPhone as a single app called Find My), Snapchat’s location-sharing functionality, and other similar products all have one major issue: they are focused on sharing your exact location either all the time, or at least whenever you are using the app. This presents two problems in my mind.
- I do not want to always be sharing my location with everyone all the time. Even people who I do want to inform of my location, like when I am en route to visit family, do not need to see it all the time.
- Exact location by itself is somewhat useless. Many times, having an exact location is not necessary, as people do not need to know if I am on the north side of my city property or the south. It also presents a privacy issue, as some friends may not need to know exactly where I am, even though I would still like them to know the general area.
If I were to rebuild Find My Friends from the ground up, I would limit it to a few core features.
Sharing location with a friend
When you would like to share your location with a friend, you are presented with a few options:
- How long to share your location, be that for just today, for a certain time period, until a certain date, or indefinitely
- Whether to ask your friend to share their location (requesting such would also be able to be done without sharing your own)
- How precise to be in the location, defaulting to “neighbourhood”, but also allowing for exact location and ETA only (more on that later)
- When and if to notify said friend (more on that later, as well)
Time away based on distance
When a user first opens the app, it will show a list of friends who are sharing their location. Rather than showing a map view, it will just be a list.
Each friend’s row in the list will contain three things, along with their name.
- Distance away, along with a travel time estimate, with mode of transport guessed based on distance and a couple other factors
- Compass direction to the friend
- Metropolitan area, city, or neighbourhood based on distance. If my friend and I are both in the same city, it could give neighbourhood or region of the city. If my friend is in Burnaby and I in Richmond (both smaller cities in Metro Vancouver), that is what it would say. If my friend is in Manhattan and I am outside London, it could simplify by saying my friend is in New York City.
Selecting a friend from the list would give you their map location, their contact info, and options to stop sharing location, request their location, and set up or edit notifications.
Currently, with Apple’s Find My Friends, you can notify, or request notifications from a friend, based on when they leave or depart a circular area with size of your choosing, centered on an address. This could be greatly improved.
First, you should be able to select a combination of notifications, rather than just notifying upon arrival, for example. You should also be able to select your friend’s live location as your destination, so you do not need to update it if they move (if they are barhopping or whatever). Most importantly, you should be able to send your ETA.
The workflow could go as follows, with each stage being optional:
- When you tap on the notify button and select a friend or friends to notify, you should first be able to remind them of your current location
- After that, you can select if you want to notify them that you have left your location
- Next, you can select your destination, either on the map, or based on a friend's location
- You would then be able to enable notifications when you arrive at your destination
- Finally, you would have the option to send your ETA. You would set your default form of transportation, and when you leave your current location, it will estimate your arrival time and notify your friends. It will then regularly check in with your average speed and whatnot, and if your arrival time has changed substantially, update your friends on that.
When it comes to requesting the location of your friends, you should be able to request their current location, request that they share their live location, and request notifications when they arrive at your location (or another specified one). You could also request their ETA.
If Find My Friends or another more cross-platform system was available with those features, I think it would be more used. You could safely share your approximate location with all your friends, be notified when people who are coming to visit from afar will arrive, and eliminate the need for extra texts and phone calls when it can all be automated. Those are all features which we do not get now and would actually benefit from. Currently, all I get is the ability to stalk my mom and see if she is buying gas or groceries at the moment, which is about as useful as a box of kitty litter in the garden.