A Developer Gazes Into the Future of QuickBase Mobile Apps

mobilephones

It’s easy to see many tasks that once required a PC are now commonly performed on smartphones. We listen to music, track our schedule, send emails, watch video, and (by the way) make phone calls with that little device in our pockets.

But the desktop isn’t obsolete just yet. Most of us aren’t writing reports, composing spreadsheets, or using QuickBase from our iPhones, Androids, or Blackberrys. There are three smartphone apps available for QuickBase, all released in 2010. You can read my review of them here.

These initial QuickBase apps are faced with the limits of screen size and functionality on current smartphones. But I believe that the ability to make full use of QuickBase from your smartphone is going to vastly improve.

The rough edges will be quickly smoothed.

The next generation of QuickBase smartphone apps should arrive fairly soon — by the end of 2011, I hope — and fix some of the biggest hurdles left standing by the initial app releases. For example:

  • The next generation of apps will  read app tokens from email, so you don’t have to type those 26-character strings by hand — er, thumb.
  • They will allow some basic data entry – similar to grid edit on the desktop. If you can see a record, you’ll be able to edit inside the fields that are displayed.
  • Larger screens and better screen resolution will improve the display of data in the apps.

Steps towards improving data entry.

Typing into a smartphone is never going to be easy, though the new phones with “zigzag” text-entry technology are a big step forward. If you just have to enter a small amount of data, typing onto a tiny keyboard is okay.

Voice recognition is a still better prospect.

Thankfully, the hard part of voice recognition – turning sounds into words on a screen – has taken huge strides. When I tell my phone, “Navigate to the nearest Home Depot,” I don’t even have to worry that I’m going to end up at a train station instead.

Alternate display methods can help overcome small screen obstacle.

Can you really fill out a whole form when you can just see a little piece of it at a time? I think that as database pros, we need to come up with another kind way of viewing the data – perhaps with lots of small pages, like a deck of cards – before you can confidently handle data entry with your smartphone. The desktop equivalent would be multi-tab forms in QuickBase. This could translate easily to the stack of cards in a mobile version of the form.

I’m confident that, given some time, we’ll get there.

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  • gareth

    Don’t forget web-based apps. They’ll be good enough for a lot of cases. Here’s my (free!, beta) iPhone app: http://tinyurl.com/48p93e9

  • Ccarter

    Eric Segal and the staff at Data Collaborative are the BEST!

  • Barry Nash

    Intuit needs to have this in place sooner than later. Our company has been using a custom CRM database for two years now and we love it. What’s missing is the ability to quick enter potential customers out in the field. The way it is now a sales person has to use the web based app and it’s too small to read. Voice recognition would be nice but not crucial.
    The integration needs to have a dashboard with the ability to select the fields that you need on your Smartphone, or the ability to scroll through pages of different fields.
    In the end, anything would be better than running the app out of a browser.

    • gareth

      This might help – https://quickbase-forms.heroku.com/ – if you make the font bigger on the output, and this might be useful – http://quickbase-inbox.heroku.com .

      • Barry — Thanks for the feedback — I’ve sent your comments to our product team. We’ll take them into consideration as we think about our next steps into mobile.

        ^ Alex

        •  Just out of curiosity Alex over the past 11 Months what has come of the information  you “sent to your product team”?
          Sneaking suspicion this Reply will either get deleted or ignored but I would be willing to bet —-Nothing happened..

          • Jeff — I emailed Barry’s feedback to our product management team the day he posted it here (that kind of direct access to a product team is very rare). Since then we’ve launched the first version of our mobile offering and are working on developing that further. As you can imagine, we have to take in the needs of thousands of customers when we’re developing our product road map so you’re not going to see all individual requests implemented. And like any other company, we have to prioritize what features get developed when based on our resources and the size of our team. 

            Have you seen our Feedback Forum? You can propose new feature ideas and the customer community will vote them up and comment on them. Our product team regularly manages the forum, is in tune with what customers are requesting, and has implemented a number of those suggestions into the product. You can find the forum by going to  your MyQuickBase page and clicking the orange “feedback” tab on the left margin.What precedent do you have for suspecting that we would delete this post? We only delete posts that contain profanity or are completely irrelevant to QuickBase. Its in our best interest to listen to the feedback our customers provide, so we are certainly not ignoring any comments from customers. And we try our best to answer comments in a timely fashion, but we don’t always get to them instantly.Alex

          • Barrynash

            I would be interested in trying or testing a beta app when available.

          • Barry — If you visit QuickBase from your mobile device, it will automatically put you into the mobile version of QuickBase! 

            Alex

    •  I agree Barry! you don’t always have a stable internet connection in the field. As my DBA service business is based in The Villages Fla (over 32  Square miles and is the largest retirement community in the US) I have had Verizon and AT&T and neither have 75% coverage . If you don’t take calls and set appointments people simply go to the next name on the list. I use a laptop in my work truck. I started using QBCM in 2006 and have yet to see them fix anything thats wrong with it. Unfortunately they don’t care about the little guys and only cater to large corporations with deep pockets, its the “financially responsible thing to do for share holders” oh they will help 1 or 2 little guys for some PR opportunities. But ultimately their track record speaks for its self, and it says (maximum profit margin > Acountability) But no one really care about what I have to say I make under 100K and take severe tax beatdowns on a regular basis.

  • Arkady

    We would like to allow mobile workers to fill forms, say on a tablet with CIM card, when internet connection is unstable. To me this means having some way of entering information that would then update or sync with a quickbase app when internet connection is restored… Does something like this exist?

    Please let me know.

  • I am a DBA service business (one man operation)  in The Villages of central Fl with over 1600 contacts in QBCM 2.5
    I need to be able to do it all anywhere any time
    I  keep my laptop in my truck, but I don’t always have a good internet connection and in some areas none.
    So I receive a call (a new customer needs an appointment) but have no internet connection. What happens with quickbase?
    Can you work off line with this program?
    What Programs does it Import to?
    What Programs can it export information from?
     If i spend the time to Manually input the 1600+ names and personal information will I be able to export it to ANY other programs if it does not work for me?
    I saw nothing about scheduling does it work like QBCM?
    Do i need to add all the details to each appointments like I do with QBCM 2.5
    Does it lock up and or slow down after being open for a few hours like QBCM 2.5?
    If i have an appointment set how hard is it to move an appointment forward or back in time?
    does it do recurring appointments in custom increments like weekly or monthly or every 4 6 8 9 or 12 months?
    I would love to be able to use it with Microsoft Map Point to help me optimise my 40-50 weekly appointments that are scattered over a 27 square mile area.

    • Jeff, 

      We don’t have an “offline” option, but you can certainly import/export to an excel sheet, csv, or tsv (text file). So if you don’t have internet access, you can use Excel or a plain text program and import once you regain your connection. 

      In terms of the Map Point integration, we don’t currently have a solution for that. Our partners have developed many add-ons that help integrate QuickBase with other programs, so reaching out to one of them to help you develop that integration may be your best option: http://quickbase.intuit.com/partners/add-ons