App of the Week: Badge

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App: Badge Platform: iPhone, iPad Web site: thebadgeapp.com Cost: $0.99

I think most of us have, at one time or another, left our phone behind somewhere. On occasion, that somewhere happens to be a public place. I know I have left my phone at a couple different restaurants over the years and had to race back, hoping someone found it and turned it in. Fortunately, in both cases, that is exactly what happened, but others have not been so lucky.

What's worse is when you can't remember exactly where you left it. Sure, there are services that help you locate your phone, but they don't exactly pinpoint it perfectly and unless you are very nearby with another smart phone, you still have to go on a general search in hopes your phone turns up. App developer Ash Huzenlaub found himself in a similar situation in 2011 when he left his iPhone on a flight to Brazil.

"It was in the seat pocket," he told me in an e-mail. "By the time I realized it, I was through customs in a non-English speaking place. A call to American Advantage desk later said the plane had already left for JFK. They asked if I had my name on it and if so they would return it, but they find 100+ iPhones, iPads, etc a week on their flights and they all look the same."

That's when he decided to create Badge.

The Description Badge is a hyper-simple app that creates a custom background for your iPhone or iPad that includes your name, phone number, e-mail and emergency contact information. There really isn't much more to it.

The Good I'm a fan of simplicity in user interface and Badge is as easy to use as possible. A simple registration screen appears on the first login. Once registered -- only requiring name and e-mail -- a simple form appears to select either iPad or iPhone (iPhone is pre-populated since it is on the phone) and enter information like e-mail, phone number to call if device is found, emergency contact name, emergency contact number and a language choice.

From there, users select a background option from either their own images or a gallery of provided backgrounds, pick a font color and tap to preview what the background will look like. From there, the "badge" can be saved to the camera roll and selected as the background for either the lock screen, the main screen or both.

Now, anyone with a little graphic design skill could easily design a background and message screen, upload it to the iPhone or iPad and do what Badge does. But, the vast majority of people don't want to do that, which is why I think Badge fills a nice niche.

There are very few customization options, but what is provided is probably enough for most people. The emergency contact is a nice touch considering the phone might be a resource in a medical emergency. And the language option is fantastic for traveling to other countries -- the language database is pretty extensive as well.

The Questionable My only quibbles with Badge are minor. It would be nice to have a bit more customization. For example, having a message box with some additional information -- allergies, for example -- could come in handy. Having the option to include more than one number would be great as well. Obviously, you can run out of real estate pretty quickly, but that could be adjusted with wording or font size.

Also, I always find it frustrating to have to go through any registration process when it comes to a stand-alone app like this one. Unless there is some overriding system attached to it -- some massive database of lost phones, for example -- it seems like the only purpose would be for marketing, which is okay, but I think users should be allowed to opt out of registration and simply use the app as a tool, especially since the app isn't free.

Finally, when the image is stored to the camera roll, it also stores the background image without text. Maybe that's a quirk of programming, but I'd prefer to omit that. It's hard enough to sort through tons of images on your camera roll as is without adding a useless background image.

The Verdict Overall, I really like Badge and have been employing it for the past week since I purchased it. I could see it being particularly useful while traveling. I also appreciate the optimism of its creator, who understands that an app like this requires trusting in the kindness of strangers and believes that most will do the right thing. He even tested his assumptions with his own phone.

"As I began designing Badge here in LA in December," Huzenlaub wrote in an e-mail, "I left my iPhone with Badge beta enabled at tables at the Hollywood Starbucks on Melrose and 17 out of 20 times, the person who picked it up made an announcement, 'Is Ash here, I have your iPhone.'" He continued, "The fact is that MOST people in this world are honest."

You have to appreciate that sort of cockeyed optimism, and his app isn't bad, either.

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