Exactly what is Geofencing? Geofencing is like creating an invisible fence around a location on a map, and if the iPhone enters or leaves that area, the iPhone performs an action like sending an alert or text message. It’s a pretty powerful feature that was introduced in iOS 5, but currently, there are few apps that take advantage of it. Below are 4 awesome apps that do. Also, check out our forum post for a complete list of geofencing apps.
Twist (free) is a cool new app that uses geofencing to automatically inform friends when you leave a location and sends updates estimating when you’ll arrive. It’s different from past GPS tracking apps in that after the initial setup, everything is pretty much automatic.
After setting up an event, like leaving your home to meet someone at a restaurant, the app won’t do anything until you actually leave your location, then it leaps into action, informing your friends about your departure and estimated arrival. Updates are sent via SMS, push notification, or email. This could help prevent angry girlfriend syndrome.
Checkmark ($0.99) is similar to Apple’s Reminders app in that it supplies location-based (geofenced) reminders. For example, you create a reminder to buy diapers, and as you drive by the grocery store, the iPhone reminds you to buy diapers. But Checkmark takes things to the next level by letting you set timers on top of your geofences. For example, remind me 15 minutes after I leave work to stop at the pharmacy. Checkmark also lets you establish how big your geofence is around a location. The app’s interface is also built around making it easier to create geofencing reminders based on repetitive tasks you do, such as grocery shopping or your daily feeding of a parking meter.
Instapaper ($2.99) is one of my favorite iPhone/iPad apps. Its main function is to allow you to save articles you find on the web for reading offline later. The app’s geofencing feature is buried in the settings, so you have to dig to find it, but it’s worth it. With Instapaper’s geofencing capabilities you can have the app automatically download your saved articles to the iPhone whenever you enter or leave a location(s). So if you’re heading home from work, by the time you arrive the articles you saved throughout the day will be waiting on your iPhone.
Reminders is Apple’s official “to-do” app introduced in iOS 5. With Reminders, you can create location-based reminders for your various to-do items. For example: you create a reminder to buy milk, then the iPhone reminds you as you drive near the grocery store. The downside to Reminders is that you can only use locations in your iPhone’s Address Book, and that’s one of the big reasons why more people don’t use the geofencing feature of the app. Another official Apple app, Find My Friends, will be getting geofencing capabilities when iOS 6 arrives this fall.