Checkmark: Simple Location-Based Reminders

There are several iPhone apps that feature location-based reminders, but most are either overly complicated or underpowered. The native Reminders app is one such example of location-based reminders implemented poorly. The functionality is there, but it’s buried and difficult to access.

Checkmark, by Snowman is based on a simple premise: “Reminders when and where you want them.” The app puts location-based reminders at the forefront, instead of burying them behind settings and preferences. Is there a place for Checkmark somewhere between the complex apps like Omnifocus and basic apps like Clear? Can it hold up against the free Reminders app?

Getting Started

Before creating a location-based reminder, it’s first necessary to set up locations within Checkmark. There are three ways to create a new location: from the map, your current location, or a contact in the iPhone’s address book. Checkmark also asks for a radius from 100 to 1600 ft, so it can differentiate large offices from tiny apartments. This makes it possible to have several locations in a small area and ensures that users receive their location notifications if they are within a certain radius of the map pinpoint. Once the user picks a location, he or she can choose from 27 icons to represent the location in the “Where” screen. User-created locations are shown in grid form, and tapping on a location reveals the tasks that are assigned to it.

Location creation is about as easy as creating a task. Icons provide an easy way to tell locations apart.

Location creation is about as easy as creating a task. Icons provide an easy way to tell locations apart.

Task Creation

The native Reminders app supports location-based tasks, so why bother with a paid alternative? Go ahead and try to make a location-based reminder in the native app, and I’ll wait here. Go ahead, I’m serious.

Creating a location-based task in Reminders goes a little something like this:

  • Tap plus to create a task.
  • Type the task.
  • Tap Done.
  • Tap the task.
  • Tap Remind Me.
  • Slide the At a Location slider to On.
  • Select a location.
  • Tap Done.

Let’s run through creating a task in Checkmark, assuming that the user has already created a few locations:

  • Tap the desired location.
  • Tap the plus icon.
  • Type the task.
  • Tap save.

That’s all there is to creating a location-based task in Checkmark. The task alert defaults to arrival at the location, but users can toggle to departure and even set a time delay for a certain number of minutes after arrival or departure. The task-creation process involves half of the steps as the native Reminders app, and users don’t have to worry about fiddling with complex settings as they would in apps like Omnifocus. The app’s simplicity alone is a reason to give it a try.

For the most part task creation is fast, but it's impossible to switch a task from time-based to location-based.

For the most part task creation is fast, but it’s impossible to switch a task from time-based to location-based.

Checkmark focuses on location-based reminders, but it also supports timed reminders. Simply tap the When option in the bottom menu bar to switch from location-based to time-based reminders. This toggle is available on both the main screen and location screens. Since timed reminders don’t require a location, the list is separated from the location lists.

User location-based tasks are separated into a location grid, and locations can be edited or deleted in the location's task view.

User location-based tasks are separated into a location grid, and locations can be edited or deleted in the location’s task view.

Users with many locations may find it difficult to juggle reminders, but Checkmark provides a comprehensive list that shows all location-based reminders, separated by their corresponding locations. This makes it easy to glance at upcoming tasks, but it might make more sense if the user was able to toggle between time-based and location-based tasks within the list view. Time-based tasks aren’t included in the list, and there isn’t a way to toggle between task types without returning to the app’s home screen.

Checkmark creates a master list of all location-based reminders and sorts time-based reminders by date.

Checkmark creates a master list of all location-based reminders and sorts time-based reminders by date.

Alerts

Task creation is only one aspect of Checkmark, and it’s less important that tasks are fun to create than if they show up when they are supposed to. In terms of delivery, Checkmark performs flawlessly. Notifications pop up immediately upon arriving or leaving an area, unless specified otherwise. While tasks do show up in the Notification Center, they can’t be marked as completed by swiping. Swiping a task brings the user into Checkmark and highlights said task, but the task must be checked off within the app. This is somewhat expected, considering Apple’s attitude about Notification Center actions. If a location has more than one task set for arrival, Checkmark will send a notification for each task. This makes grocery lists a bit painful, and it would be nice if Checkmark consolidated notifications that occur for one location at the same time.

Checkmark flexes its style muscles with elegant in-app notifications (left), but the app also highlights tasks accessed via notification center (right).

Checkmark flexes its style muscles with elegant in-app notifications (left), but the app also highlights tasks accessed via notification center (right).

Slow Drain

Battery life is the first thing that comes to mind when a location-based app crosses my path. The native Reminders app burns through my aging phone’s battery, so I avoid creating location-based reminders at all costs. Let’s face it, any app that uses user location will result in shortened battery life. Checkmark takes full advantage of this solution and treats the iPhone battery with great respect. I found that my iPhone had ample battery to make it through the day, even with regular use. This superb performance makes Checkmark an excellent daily companion and a realistic solution to implementing location-based tasks.

Location accuracy is set to “normal” by default. This conserves battery, but users can switch to “best” accuracy in the app settings.

Conclusion

Checkmark is an excellent choice for those looking for a better alternative to the clunky native Reminders app. Adding location-based reminders is incredibly simple, and the support for classic time-based reminders makes the app a firm replacement for the native version. The “one trusted system” crowd may frown on this, but basic lists and reminders are simply easier to handle in Checkmark. This combined with excellent battery performance makes the app invaluable. It’s simply too useful to pass up.


Summary

Checkmark makes location-based reminders simple by letting users assign tasks to specific locations or create simple time-based reminders.

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