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Twist: a simple, user-friendly app that gives friends your travel ETA

Twist: a simple, user-friendly app that gives friends your travel ETA


Twist is an iOS app that texts friends to let them know when you've left to visit them and when you will arrive. It combines many of the features of Google Latitude with a user-friendly interface and solid feature set.

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Here at The Verge, we like apps that remember things for us. Microsoft's on{X} provides a wealth of options for Android, but not everyone wants to customize a script to make use of the power of phones. The more specific and accessible iOS app Twist, however, combines geolocation and automatic text messaging to take care of one common task: letting your friends know when you leave to meet them. Twist is meant to aggregate data from all the apps you'd normally use while commuting or going out: Yelp, Maps, Weather, and Messages. Its primary purpose, however, is sending texts with your time of departure or arrival. It's been quietly available in iTunes for a while, so we decided to give it a try.

After you've set a few simple options (where you're going, the mode of transportation, and who you want to notify), Twist will detect when you've left and send out a text message; each one-way journey is known as a "twist." The app also gives you options for how many texts will be sent: friends can receive one when you leave, during travel, or when you're about to arrive. During the trip, the app runs in the background, and the traveler can see what it's been sending. If both parties are using Twist, the recipient can get notifications through Push instead.


In terms of technology, Twist is basically social tracking system Google Latitude, which lets users periodically (or continuously) share locations with a set of friends. It even uses the Maps API and Google Street View. That said, Twist has made some welcome tweaks to the system. Unlike Latitude, you can check ETAs, and journeys are organized in discrete "twists" rather than an always-on sharing model. Friends aren't told the exact address you're leaving from, and each twist is sent only to the people you choose. Best of all, Twist doesn't require the recipient to use the app — they just need to be willing to receive a couple of texts from it. This combination means that people who would find Latitude creepy at best can still get updates, and the rest of us can let a friend know when we'll arrive without worrying about them tracking our every move afterwards.

Twist's interface is, frankly, not very attractive, but its organization is stellar. Two large tiles at the top are linked permanently to presets for work and home, so you don't have to pick a list of recipients each time. You can "register" the phone by SMS to communicate with friends using the app instead of text messages, but Twist won't push you to do so, making the barrier to use refreshingly low. We wouldn't mind just a little more customizability, like the option to change the names of your Home and Work tiles or to set automatic repeating twists, but overall it strikes a good balance between being flexible and user-friendly. While some of the more vestigial features feel a bit useless at this point, the core functionality is indispensable. We can only hope for an Android version soon.

Update: Twist reached out to us in comments below to let us know that the current version is still in beta and will officially launch on July 18th. We'll be taking another look when it arrives!