is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Four years ago I wrote praisingly about Moves, a then promising iPhone app that tracked your steps and location throughout the day. The company that made Moves was eventually acquired by Facebook and though the app continues to get periodic maintenance, there hasn’t been a truly meaningful feature update in years. (Plus, giving all of one’s data to Facebook is maybe not the best idea, as explicated by technologist Vicki Boykis.) There have been other tracker apps that have come along since but none of them have had the elegance or accuracy of Moves.
At least not on iOS. Android users, as I discovered recently, have enjoyed what is very much a truly worthy successor to Moves for nearly two years now in the form of Timeline for Google Maps. It does nearly everything Moves does but in a better, more evolved fashion. Though it doesn’t place as much emphasis on actual steps that you take during the day, it still records distance and understands not just walking, running, cycling and driving, but also air travel, boating, hiking and even horseback riding, among many other motion types. Activities are also captured alongside photos that you’ve taken in those locations, which is an ideal integration that makes Timeline an unexpectedly effective personal journal.
Location accuracy is as good or better than Moves (which is still a compliment to how well engineered Moves was when it launched) and you can easily edit the venues it gets wrong. Additionally, unlike Moves, Timeline lets you add a place along a route if it failed to understand that a brief pitstop you might have made was meaningful enough to you to be recorded; that happened a lot for me with Moves and the inability to correct the record was frustrating.
Timeline is also almost a fully fledged service in that your history is available via a web browser. If you have Timeline data, it’s available at google.com/maps/timeline and looks something like this:
Of course, the catch here for fans of Moves, which was iOS only, is that Timeline is only available for Google Maps for Android. This is one of the few times that I’ve encountered an Android-only feature that I truly want on my iPhone. Hopefully that will come soon, so I can stop carrying two phones around.+