Calendars. Contacts. Maps. Emails. Text messages. Facebook. LinkedIn.
There are a lot of things you can do with the iPhone. Each of those things is scattered across the phone in it’s own separate app, however. Sure, there’s some integration of those services, but most of the time you’re going to have to switch apps to get from one function to the other. It’s easy to get annoyed or overwhelmed trying to manage your time while everyone up-to-date on the things that matter.
Tempo is a new app from SRI (the company that originally developed Siri) that aims to bring all of those functions together—at least as far as the concern your schedule—into a cohesive system for managing your life. But how well do all of these different services coexist in the same application?
Tempo is a new breed of “smart calendar.” On your first run, you’ll be asked to login to a variety of services: the Tempo syncing service, all of your relevant email accounts, your Facebook, and more. It’ll ask for permission to access your location, calendar, and contacts. After it has pulled all of the information possible from each of those sources, it uploads the data to the Tempo server and “personalizes” your calendar.
When you enter a new event, you can type the title however you like without worrying about specifying attendees or the exact location. The app will then automatically figure out who you’re talking about and where you’re meeting them and add the information to the event.
For example, I created an event on my Mac a few months ago that I had forgotten about. I had typed a few email addresses into the Notes section of that event, only one of which was in my contacts. That address was my mom’s. Even though I was only keeping it there for a reference in the notes section and she wasn’t actually going to be involved at all with the event, Tempo found her email in the notes and attached her contact card to the event.
Tapping on her name presented me with a list of options, including a placing a phone call, emailing her, reading all of the emails she had recently sent me, sending a text message, posting on her Facebook wall, launching her profile in the Facebook app, or sending a quick “I’ll be late” message. Had it been her birthday, the app would have told me that and presented me with a button to post on her Facebook wall and wish her a happy birthday. The integration with all of these services is impressive.
Bells, whistles, and a whole lot more
Tempo also supports file attachments, ranging from Microsoft Office files to PDFs and more. These files can be pulled from your email attachments. It can tell you the status of your flight. Because it pulls events from your built-in calendar, you can use Siri to create events and see them show up right in Tempo a few seconds later. I can’t think of a single aspect of communication that hasn’t been integrated into this app.
As a bonus for those who dislike Apple’s new iOS 6 mapping solution, there’s even a switch in the settings to disable that and use another service.
The app is very good at what it does, but it does have its flaws. There are certain functions that I’m used to in the built-in Calendar app I couldn’t find in Tempo. One of these is multiple alerts. I usually like to set two alerts before my calendar events so that I’m not caught off-guard by something I forgot. In Tempo, you don’t have the ability to add a second alert to an event. The alert times also differ from those set by the Calendar app. Tempo does not have as many available alert options as the stock app.
Despite that, the app actually has great support for alerts. The event’s date, time, and location show up in Notification Center, all on separate lines so it’s easy to read. Tapping these notifications opens the app to the relevant event and offers you an option to snooze the alarm.
The app is also a bit flat in terms of design. There are a lot of people who prefer this style. I am not one of them. Even so, the app was fairly easy to navigate and for the most part made sure to always give you a way back to the current day no matter how far down you ventured into the app’s many layers.
As seems to be becoming a popular trend with recent iOS apps, Tempo does rely on their own servers to store some of your information. This may be a deal-breaker for some security-minded iPhone users, but others may not be afraid to trust Tempo with their information.
I started this review with a question: how smart does a calendar need to be? When I initially started reviewing Tempo, I was overwhelmed. There were so many things you could do. There were options and buttons everywhere. I felt a bit smothered, and I couldn’t figure out why I would want to use this confusing app.
After sitting down with it for a bit, I’ve changed my mind about that. While it seems daunting at first, Tempo is easily mastered and provides a powerful solution for those who want to manage their personal or professional lives more efficiently.
Tempo is available on the App Store for free. It is optimized for the iPhone 5, but does not have an iPad version at this time.