Serial+: Total Warranty & Serial Number Management

I often buy stuff. In fact, you might call it a hobby of mine. Depending on the type of stuff I buy, I’m typically entitled to some type of manufacturer warranty. This applies to obvious items such as the computer I’m using right now to write this review, or the iPhone I’m using to try out the app for review. But warranties, limited as they may be, are often awarded for many items such as small appliances, video games or automobile parts.

Another item I deal with from time to time are serial numbers for software purchases. Buying items from the App Store and Mac App Store have all but eliminated the need for tracking serial numbers, but there are definitely exceptions on occasion. Keeping tabs on warranty items and serial numbers is rather important, but isn’t a task I want to think twice about. Serial+ by Enabled Apps aims to keep me from having to do so.

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It’s Very Secure

When you fire up Serial+ initially, you’re prompted to enter a PIN/Passcode. Off the bat it’s obvious that Enabled Apps places a big importance on security, as you’ll soon find that every time you leave the app and return this PIN needs to be entered. If you find this to be an annoyance, as I have, you’ll be disappointed to learn that there’s no option to turn off this restriction. While I appreciate the developer’s concerns, I’d prefer having the option to determine whether warranty items and serial numbers need to be guarded so strictly.

Make sure to select a PIN you can remember because you'll be locked out if you forget.

Make sure to select a PIN you can remember because you’ll be locked out if you forget.

Serial+ allows you to backup your information to Dropbox, and said information is protected by use of an AES-256 bit encryption. For those not familiar with AES, or encryption in general, the EE Times states that “AES has never been cracked yet and is safe against any brute force attacks.” Knowing nothing about encryption myself, that seems to be the best outcome you could possibly hope for.

Entering Serials & Warranties

After setting your PIN, Serial+ dumps you into the main view, which appears rather vacant at first glance. This is actually a good thing, because there’s little question in regards to what steps a user should take next. Tapping the big + icon in the upper-left corner initiates the process for entering a serial number/warranty item, while tapping the big gear icon in the upper-right corner transitions you to the settings.

All added items are separated by category and displayed in alphabetical order.

All added items are separated by category and displayed in alphabetical order.

Entering a serial number/warranty item is a somewhat straightforward task. Once you select the item type, you’re presented a series of fields that you’ll need to fill out. When you finish entering one field, you can often tap the return button to jump to the next, but you will be halted when you’re required to enter a date, select an item category or add a photo. Speaking of dates, if you enter a purchase date and length of warranty Serial+ will automatically enter the expiration date — a minor, but handy feature.

Serial+ prompts you to enter a lot of detailed information, which may be useful later on.

Serial+ prompts you to enter a lot of detailed information, which may be useful later on.

I encountered a few speed bumps during this process that threw me for a loop. Some entry fields (e.g. Item Category, Pictures and Purchase Date) do absolutely nothing when you tap them, and it took me a few seconds to realize that a button on the right side needed to be tapped to progress. Landing in a bare Add Photos view also required me to take me a few seconds to realize I needed to tap the + button at the top to being the process — a bit of hand holding from the developers would be helpful in this regard.

Certain areas of the app may leave you scratching your head.

Certain areas of the app may leave you scratching your head.

Backups & Exports

When you’re using an iOS app of this nature, it’s important that your data isn’t trapped on your phone and can be easily accessed. Serial+ offers a backup and restore option using your Dropbox account, but in my experience, it was completely unusable. Enabled Apps claims syncing issues were corrected with the release of version 1.01, which I’m currently using, and I’m still having problems. Even after implementing the workaround posted in the support section of Enabled Apps’ website, backing up still didn’t work. I even tried unlinking and relinking my Dropbox account, but the issues persisted.

All my attempts for backing up my information were met with this or similar prompts.

All my attempts for backing up my information were met with this or similar prompts.

Exporting your data is a viable option, which can be done in plain text or CSV format. It only works via email, so sharing to Dropbox or another installed app isn’t an option. What’s weird, though, is that you can only export serial number data and warranty item data separately. This type of oddity fits in very well with the next section.

Exporting your information is the best route to take when needed.

Exporting your information is the best route to take when needed.

Interacting With Serial+

Serial+ is a rather simple app, which is perfect for the task is sets out to accomplish. It sports some nifty animations when entering your PIN and making the search field appear, and also features some minimal but very fitting sound effects. These few niceties aside, Serial+ doesn’t feel nearly as intuitive as it’s initial promise.

For instance, when activating the search function by swiping down in the main view, the keyboard doesn’t automatically appear so you can begin typing. Instead, you’re required to tap the search field to begin the process. There are also an odd number of inconsistencies in the UI, mostly dealing with language. Serials are also referred to as software, software item and software application in various menus and views. Likewise, warranty items are referred to as hardware and other items.

When in the Add Photo view an Edit button is still enabled and tappable when no photos have been added, when it should be grayed out. These may seem like nit picky issues, but frankly it comes off as sloppy design work. Since these are minor issues, however, they’re all easily fixable and I hope Enabled Apps takes the time to do.

The Bottom Line

Serial+ has a very simple goal: to make it easier for users to keep track of their serial numbers and warranty items so the information is handy when it’s needed. If you were to buy a new item later today and needed to quickly enter the necessary information, this app will allow you to do so. Though categorized as a productivity, it feels more at home in the utility app category, which some people are more willing to forgive for not being as polished as apps in some other genres. I’m not as forgiving, and believe Serial+ can be improved to make the overall user experience more enjoyable.

An area that requires a great deal of improvement is accessibility, as the user experience for individuals that rely on VoiceOver is an absolute nightmare. The two most important buttons in the app — the add item button and settings button in the main view — are referred to simply as “button” when tapped, which ultimately makes the app worthless in this regard.

I plan to hold on to and use Serial+ when the needs arises, because I find that the app’s usefulness outshines its issues. At $2.99, the app is priced reasonably, and is one of few apps that provides this service. If you’re not quite sold yet, feel free to check out the lite version, which allows you to upgrade within the app if you end up becoming attached.


Summary

Track warranties and manage serial numbers for the products you purchase.

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