Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Tempo App: Omotenashi Finally Comes to Mobile

I asked for a smarter mobile app, and Tempo delivers it.

Recently I lamented how little “intelligence” has been built into mobile applications these days: lots of repeat steps, little user anticipation and minimal awareness other than rudimentary location information. As my aching thumbs reminded me: making everything smaller didn’t necessarily make them better. What was needed, I said, was some omotenashi. App designers needed to develop software that anticipates our needs, a mobile version of world-famous Japanese hospitality.  Apps should learn from our mostly-repeated mobile habits. Alas, most apps remain little more than smaller versions of user-driven PC data entry tools. I want apps that can think ahead and make my day better all by themselves.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to find Tempo

Simply put: Tempo is brilliant. At the very least, it’s ten steps ahead of any other app out I’ve seen. Don’t be fooled: Tempo calls itself a “smarter calendar” but in reality, it’s the first in a whole world of concierge-smart applications for mobile devices. Tempo doesn’t just retool your calendar: it redesigns what calendaring should be all about.

With Tempo, smartphone calendars finally become helpful. Entries improve productivity (not just mental reminders) by anticipating the kinds of things you must manage around an appointment. For example, Tempo automatically pulls in a recent emails for people in an appointment entry – because the usual purpose of a meeting or call is to continue a conversation that was happening by email. As for that conference call, Tempo doesn’t just remind you of the number: it dials it and enters the meeting room number automatically. Looking back, it seems laughable that calendars hadn’t solved this problem before. I’m glad Tempo finally did.

Similarly, the app finds and maps locations noted in an appointment; just put the name of a place in and Tempo looks it up intelligently by likely distance from you. But that’s not all: it shows the map, includes directions, travel time from your current location, Yelp reviews and even parking options. When you get there, one more click opens Foursquare to make checking in a breeze. If you’re running late, Tempo can inform your contact by phone, email or text with one button. If you’ve forgotten any background information about the person or company you’re meeting with, Tempo offers a single-click to their LinkedIn profile to refresh your memory while you’re ascending the elevator.

You’ll never be late, lost or out to lunch about a meeting again with Tempo.

Tempo does more: it pulls in Facebook birthdays so you can send best wishes from your daily agenda. It monitors your flight status, and since Tempo is designed by the makers of Siri, you can use the familiar iPhone voice assistant to create new entries. It even grows smarter the more you use it, learning from your latest emails, appointments, new contacts, and locations, studying your habits so it can better anticipate future activities.

That’s the definition of omotenashi – knowing what someone needs before they ask for it. That’s hospitality.

Most important is that Tempo is an app driven by a better idea, not just better programming. Mobile apps should solve real life problems. Yet consider most email apps: They’re marginally faster but otherwise lamentably like the original AOL Mail. Tempo is the product of better thinking, which sets it apart from anything else in the mobile space.

It’s almost as if someone actually studied how people use their smartphones – a novel idea – and then designed an app for it. Try Tempo and you’ll be amazed. Hopefully it will signal a sea change in development for mobility. Other engineers could learn a lot: designers of battery life, screen brightness, even OS features themselves should pick up the tempo (pardon the pun) and start designing for hospitality and convenience. 

The mobile world isn’t just about making software smaller; it’s about making them better. Tempo is certainly showing the way.

  • So far I love that it’s already identified my contacts I have appointments with this Saturday. It has mapped out the location of the appointment, and merged with my google calendar. I’m excited to see how I can use this app to my advantage. You are right, it’s not just your average app!

  • It’s slick, that’s for sure BUT – it’s missing some very BASIC features such as the ability to “SEARCH” and the ability to “INVITE” attendees to events or appointments.

  • Rob:

    From what I can tell , Tempo will be releasing that feature soon (according to their tech forum). This is still a “throttled” beta for them (one of the reasons you have to wait in line to download it) so I suspect some features like search (which probably use a ton of cloud computing time) will be coming as they load-balance their infrastructure. As for invite feature, I read that it might be an iOS limitation; but I just looked at the iOS calendar on my iPhone 4 and it doesn’t seem to have invite either… maybe it does on the 5?
    Like all apps, I’m sure there’s a huge list of improvements they’d like to make! Thanks for your comment.
    — Matthew