I use a ton of different apps everyday – as do most people who own a smartphone or tablet – but I’ve never reviewed or promoted one before. While I love social, photo editing and gaming apps, I recently came across one that I feel deserves some praise because of it’s primary goal: safety.
In the last month, I got a new job and moved to a new city. I mentioned in a previous post that the hours are not consistent and I often commute home after 11 p.m. Being alone and female at night in New York City (actually, any city) can sometimes be scary whether you’re walking, taking a bus, train or Lyft/ Uber. (I like Lyft much better, but we can put off that debate for another time.)
After the initial shock of being employed so soon after graduation wore off, I started to think about what the actual move would be like safety-wise. Unfamiliar with my surroundings meant I was also unfamiliar with the safety level. I had just spent four years on a college campus that I felt very safe to be alone at night on and before that, 18 years in a town that I knew the ins and out of and where not to go alone. I had some serious adjusting to do.
Crime happens in the best and worst neighborhoods. There isn’t really a surefire way to never experience it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. So, I went looking for an app that would help keep me safe. There are a few great ones on the market, but I came down to two before making a final decision: Companion and SafeTrek.
Companion is a free app that lets you either enter a destination or choose “wander mode,” and you can select whether you’re walking, driving, biking or taking public transportation. You then select companions from your contact list to follow you on your journey. They get a text asking them to be your companion with a link directing them to either the app or to a browser where they see a real-time map of your movement, what your destination is and the approximate time of travel. (They don’t need to have the app for it to work!)
If you find yourself in a weird or unsafe situation, the app allows you to alert your companions that you feel nervous or you can call the police. I haven’t tried to call the police, but I think that it does it silently, which is good if you ever find yourself in a scary situation where you need to be discrete. And if you feel like you need to call the police while you aren’t actually en route, you can just open the app and do so. You don’t need to have a selected destination and companions for that.
Companion also tracks movements, so if the user goes from walking to running, it will alert the companions and ask the user to confirm that they’re ok. If they don’t confirm within 15 seconds, the app will alert the police. I was using the app one night while taking Lyft and my driver took a wrong turn and ended up on the opposite side of the building that I needed to go to. Because of one ways and closed roads, we had to do a big loop around. Because it looked like I passed my destination and kept going, the app asked if I was ok. According to a CNN article, Companion will also go into “alert mode,” which emits a siren noise if the user doesn’t confirm their safety.
SafeTrek, which costs $2.99 a month, has a “hold until safe” design. Users hold their finger on the open app until they reach their destination or otherwise safe area. When you release, you type in your personalized code within a certain amount of time and that tells the app that you are safe. If you release your finger and don’t type in your code, the police will be notified of your exact location thanks to GPS. If you have to call the police manually and you’re in a position where you can’t speak or don’t actually know where you are, they could have a hard (and time consuming) time tracking you.
SafeTrek offers a 30-day free trial as well as a discounted $29.99 a year price.
(Full disclosure: I have not actually tried SafeTrek, merely read articles and reviews. If you have and feel like I left something out, please let me know!)
I saw the good in both apps and while Companion being free was a definite plus, I went with it for a few other reasons. The one thing I really liked was that I could enter my destination, add my companions and then put my phone away. People are constantly getting their phones stolen right from their hands, so not having to keep my finger pressed to the screen is a huge advantage.
Although, in the reviews for SafeTrek, it seems like it makes more sense to use it over Companion if you’re just running outside for a second, walking to or from your car, or as a Huffington Post article pointed out, even if you’re home and feel scared: “The app came in handy one night when her doorbell started ringing repeatedly. As she walked down the stairs, she drew up the SafeTrek app and put her finger on the button. No one was at her door, but when she started walking back upstairs she heard someone trying to break in. That’s when she released her grip.”
Both apps have the potential to help lower crime all over the country. Because both apps use GPS to track you, they also can keep track of the areas with high levels of unsafety. The app developers can let police or other public safety agencies know what areas are coming up frequently. I don’t know if either does this currently, but hopefully it will be a step in the right direction.
While I chose Companion, just doing research for this review has made me consider also downloading SafeTrek. Whether you decide to go with one – or both – of these, or some of the other several in the app store, remember that you can never be too safe.
Does anyone use either of these apps or any other similar ones? Comment below!