Wednesday, April 13, 2022

An Open Letter to Life 360

Dear folks over at the Life 360 app,

I am writing you today to ask you to do just a little bit better with your app. Please don’t get me wrong – we love it. As parents, my wife and I just can’t get enough of knowing exactly where our children are at all times. At least, exactly where their phones are.

Your app can cause trouble for people, however.

As an example, one of our police officer friends told us a story about an older gentleman who visited a coffee shop one day, and was seen by one of the employees placing his phone in a Ziploc bag, and tucking it under the outdoor deck. The man then drove off in his car.

The barista was obviously confused and concerned, so he called the police, who came and retrieved the phone, then tracked the man’s car via traffic cameras to a rather shady little strip mall. The strip mall happened to contain a massage parlor of the blacked-out-windows variety, if you know what I mean.

Inside the massage parlor, our friend the cop was able to return the phone to a very, very concerned gentleman wrapped in a cheap towel. A gentleman who not only did not want to be talking to a police officer inside that particular “massage parlor,” but most definitely did not want his phone to be there.

That was a case where your app caused a problem for that older gentleman, and rightfully so. He’s obviously a dirtbag.

My problem is that your app recently caused a problem for me.

No, I was not putting my phone in a Ziploc under a coffee shop’s deck.

You see, Son Number One and Two are in Mexicali, Mexico right now on a mission trip with our church. They are currently working hard, building a house for a deserving family in need of one. We are very proud of them, to say the least.

But their mother and their grandmother tend to worry. They tend to worry a lot. Many times, they will search out things to worry about if life seems to be going too smoothly. So, as you can imagine, two of our three boys going to Mexicali was plenty of fuel for the worry fire.

Your app, however, piled some unnecessary logs onto that fire.

The boys left on Friday, and we followed their progress down south on the Life 360 app as the day progressed. We knew that they would turn their phones off on Saturday morning when they crossed the border. The group leaders hold onto their phones for the week so the kids have no distractions and can focus on why they’re there.

The problem for me here is two-fold.

First is the accuracy of location and the update speed your app provides. Regularly, both of my sons will be riding in the same car to and from school, but it appears on the app as if they are in separate cars and are racing each other, trading the lead back and forth the entire way. That seems like it could work better, but it was always more of an amusing glitch than a problem. Until now. You’ll see why shortly.

The second part of the problem is how your app reacts when the phone gets shut off. For some reason, the app doesn’t just immediately say, “The cell signal has been lost or the phone has been shut off,” or something like that. No, your app holds out hope – for about two days, it turns out – that the user will regain the cell signal or turn the phone back on. While you are holding out hope, that person – my wife’s first- and second-born, in this case – remain frozen on the screen as if they’ve simply stopped and are hanging out there.

In this case, for two days on the Life 360 screen, Son Number Two was being detained at the border crossing and Son Number One was at a hospital a mile inside the border.

A hospital, man!

Do you have any idea what I had to go through to talk my wife and mother-in-law out of storming Mexico to retrieve their babies?

Not cool, Life 360. Not cool.

So, yeah, if you could fix those little bugs, that would be amazing.

Thanks in advance,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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