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TECH: ‘Found’ App Powered By Le Cool – How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Still Hate The iPhone

Written by Daniel Clarke on May 14, 2010

UPDATE: It seems the Found app was running on a six month trial basis. Access to the service will be ending this week, so if you’re interested, download it before then to show your support. Hopefully it’s not the last we see of the free local content index, as it’s got some real potential to become a useful service, especially for independent musicians and artists in the city to advertise their upcoming events.

First of all I should preface this with a short disclaimer: The folks at Nokia and Le Cool supplied me with a nifty new Nokia N97 Mini to test out their new application, so while I wasn’t actually paid for my opinion here, I was ‘incentivised’. That being said, I’ve always been an enthusiastic Nokia loyalist, so if any of this sounds obscenely slanted, it’s because of my own prejudices, and not anything that came from the free loan of a new phone (even if it is a really cool one).

Unlike their legions of almost fanatically devoted customers, I’ve never been a fan of Apple. The introduction of the iPhone to the Australian market in 2008 certainly generated a whole new level of buzz around the monolithic corporation, and introduced some exciting innovations into the world of mobile phone technology, but for my money I’ve always found less restrictive functionality in other product brands. I like that I can easily find thousands of open source, free applications to download for my Windows XP PC, and I love that to get my Nokia phones working I don’t need to plug them into a computer with an active internet connection.

Maybe I’m just a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to mobile phone / PC integration, but I don’t see the need to marry the two devices so intimately. The Nokia N97 Mini comes preloaded with a whole bunch of useful software and can simply and easily send information to any computer using a standard bluetooth connection. The Nokia Ovi Store (the company’s alternative to the App Store) can be accessed natively on the handset, even without an internet-enabled mobile account provided you’ve got a workable Wi-Fi service in range.

The bundled Ovi Maps is brilliant, combining GPS navigation with up-to-date road maps that can be cached in the phone itself, meaning you don’t need to reconnect to the ‘net to view maps you’ve previously accessed. These little quirks might seem insignificant to someone with internet access included in their monthly mobile phone account spending, but considering that I’m a poor writer, without the guaranteed income to set up a mobile account with sufficient download quotas included, it’s a god send.

Le Cool released their ‘Found’ app to the Sydney market through the Ovi Store earlier this year, and despite its shortcomings, it’s a competent first step in the development of an active index of local food, live music and other entertainment.

Once downloaded (for free) from the Ovi Store, the app prompts the user to select three key categories of interest, from a list featuring culture, eating, film, music and nightlife. These are a little too broad I think, as I rarely actually used these preferences, browsing manually through each category instead. They might be quite useful if the categories were themselves broken down more, but this is something I’ll get to later.

Now, the first thing I noticed when looking at particular events or restaurants was the Ovi Maps integration. From the main page of any entry, you can click on the Maps button to find transport routes from your current GPS-determined location (or any predetermined point) to the building of interest. This is a really neat feature, because it makes it nearly impossible to lose your way. Directions can be upgraded to include voice guidance and traffic updates for a nominal subscription fee, which would be really handy if you weren’t a public-transport-using pauper like myself.

Each entry includes a short description of the event or venue listed, but really only offers a ‘press release’ style elaboration. This is the only problem I had with Found; there’s not too much useful detail in the entries. You’re given a button to click through to the venue or restaurant’s website, to order tickets or find out information on booking a table, which is handy, and there is an option to ‘send to a friend’ but that’s only by way of a standard SMS with web link at the moment.

This demonstrates that the service really is in more of a beta stage of development, but with some work descriptions could be expanded to include, for example, reviews of restaurants and nightclubs from other Found users that have visited them, trailers for movies featured in the film section, and perhaps music video clips or recordings of past performances for live music and theatre events.

Le Cool have done a good job of collecting a suitable range of entertainment interests in Found; the theatre section provides enough information on upcoming events for me, given that I only rarely attend them in the first place, but there’s definitely some room to elaborate more. It would be nice to be able to explore sub-sections in each category, so for example in music, users could search by genre (rock, electronic etc.), eating they could search by style (Asian, Italian etc.), and movies by genre (action, romance etc.).

It has a really stable interface, with clean, obvious navigation and little lag time between pages. Even now I’ve found several restaurants that look worth patronising, and I’ve been reminded of a few musical performances coming up that I’d completely forgotten about. More of a diversified structure in the app through further development will only serve to further broaden it’s appeal. Integration with the now ubiquitous Facebook would be a valuable extension too; sharing events, clubs and restaurants at the touch of a button with people in your friends list (although I must admit to hating most of these kinds of requests in Facebook, being able to organise a place to eat with friends, or live band night to go and see would be great).

While no upgrades are planned in the first three months of Found’s operation, the potential for updates to the service are promising. It should be noted that Nokia and Le Cool are working in conjunction with reviewers and the general public on developing this app further, which is certainly a testament to their conviction to develop useful and practical applications for the Nokia platform, and a welcome alternative to the draconian ‘you’ll like what we give you’ mentality of Apple (sure, individual developers liaise with users to expand their own app’s useability on the iPhone, but Apple is decidedly absent in these kinds of negotiations).

I’m also assured that local musicians will have the opportunity to list their own performances in the app once it passes the testing phase, so for any independent artists out there, this could be a handy new way to attract punters. For now, it’s a neat little tool to play around with. It’s free too, so if you’ve got a Nokia handset it’s definitely worth the download.

Photo taken from the Flickr photostream of user arjinted under a Creative Commons license.

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