Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: BoatUS iPhone and Droid App

New smartphone app connects boaters to critical services and other boaters

Photo © Nautical Sites Media
When BoatUS announced last week that they came out with a new smart phone app for boaters, we had to check it out. We downloaded the app for the Droid (it’s also available on the iPhone) and played around with the program’s features to see if they live to the hype of the company’s announcement.

In many ways they do, especially given the app's price - it's free.

Announced Features
When announced, the BoatUS App download page claimed that it would include the ability to:
- Text or Email your boat’s location to other boaters
- Share your raft up anchorage or favorite fishing hole
- Show your boat’s near shore location on Google Maps
- Displays your Latitude & Longitude (even out of cell range)
- Call for a tow and BoatUS will know where you are
- Access 25 BoatUS Services for your boat’s tool bag
- Get the hottest boating news from BoatUS Press Room
Our Take
Here’s what we found. The download from the Android Market was quick and easy. The first time you access the app, you are asked to fill out a form that includes your name and contact, and emergency contact, and the make and length of your boat. The app knows immediately where you are, and you are given the option to share your location via text or email… in either case, your emergency contact’s number or email address is pre-filled, as is a message stating your last known location (along with a disclaimer in case the info is wrong). This could of course save your life, but you could also change the recipient’s number or email address and use the feature for social reasons. Sort of like Foursquare for boaters, but only on a one-to-one basis. You can view your own location on a map, but cannot use the app to view where other boaters are near you. That's okay by us, but may prevent the app from becoming an explosive social networking tool for boaters. You also cannot easily Tweet or Facebook your location through the app, but that wouldn’t be hard to share with a simple copy and paste – maybe a seamless integration with such networks will be in the next release.

Easy Towing
The other safety feature that is easy to use is the “Call Now for a Tow” button. Pressing that dials TowBoatUS and allows the operator to know where you are based on the GPS in your phone. No need to search for the number and guesstimate your location, giving you quick access to the towing service from BoatUS.

Better with BoatUS
Other “features” on the app give you a speed dial connection to the BoatUS insurance claim center, and a link to the company’s latest press releases. You can also easily sign up for said insurance, or for a BoatUS membership through the app. And of course, if you do so or if you are already a customer of all the BoatUS services, the app is even more useful than it is if you have insurance and towing packages from other companies.

Review on the iPhone
On our Facebook page, one user (who is a reserve deputy with a sheriff department in Indiana), said of the app, “Very easy to navigate and very user friendly. I love it and can't wait to use it on the water.” If you’ve used the app on the Droid or iPhone (or iPad), we’d love your feedback as a comment on the Daily Boater, or on our Facebook page.

Did we mention the BoatUS app is free? You can download it from the Droid Market or the iPhone App Store, or by visiting http://www.boatus.com/towing/app.asp

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