I’ve always been interested in tracking my location and how I use my time. I’m a highly visual person, and the ability to see where my time is being spent helps me optimize my schedule and tweak my habits accordingly. Unfortunately, polished and full-featured time tracking apps like Hours haven’t scaled in the long run for me – the time I want to track isn’t spent working for clients or freelance jobs, and I always forget to launch an app and start tracking time. The time I want to track is my personal, every day routine; the Google app for iOS can track locations and times continuously in the background, but its visualization is lackluster and not optimized for mobile.
Rewind is an automatic time tracker by noidentity (makers of the excellent Next for iOS) that I’ve been using on my iPhone since early March. Through location tracking and an elegant breakdown of statistics, Rewind does exactly what I want from a mobile time tracker: it tracks where I spend my time automatically in the background, every single day.
Rewind works by monitoring places you visit and how long you stay in any given location. Upon adding a new place that you want to track, you’ll be able to choose a name, color, and radius for the location. Addresses are based on Apple Maps, which has improved slightly in my area over time, but I still need to make adjustments to POIs and businesses that can’t sometimes be parsed by Apple’s technology (this isn’t the case with Google Maps).
Once you’ve configured a bunch of places and set their monitoring to ‘active’, you can forget about the app and go on with your day. In fact, I’ve gone weeks without opening Rewind – even across device restarts and software updates – to see whether it would continue working on its own. It did. Rewind keeps tracks of places and times in a Calendar view that displays days as vertical timelines filled with colored bars for places you’ve visited. You can tap each interval to add a note (for additional context) and, if automatic tracking wasn’t perfectly accurate, you can make manual adjustments to start and end times.
In my experience, Rewind never required me to worry about manual tracking as it always correctly interpreted my location. Empty blocks in my timeline usually suggest I’ve visited a location that I hadn’t added in Rewind’s settings, which is helpful to remember what I did and enter a new address in the Places screen for future tracking.
Because I don’t have to report tracked times to anyone, the only aspect that needs to be satisfied is my personal curiosity. Rewind has a solid selection of simple tools to understand how and where your time is being spent the most. You can view pie charts for tracked locations and filter data by weeks, months, and years. A list of locations is displayed on the right, and you can tap individual places in the list (or the chart itself) to view a historical graph for the selected place and time period. For instance, this allows me to see that this week I’ve spent 59% of my time at home and 3% grocery shopping (I usually spent 13 hours a week shopping for fresh ingredients). You can also open the Places page (the one where you enter new addresses) and tap an individual location to see a list of tracked dates and durations with no charts.
I’ve wanted an automatic time tracker on my iPhone for a long time, and Rewind fulfills this need with good performance1, tasteful design2, and without sending my information to a web service. The free version of the app can export data to a local calendar on your device and it works with one location; a $4.99 In-App Purchase (which I highly recommend) unlocks up to 20 places, backups, and the ability to generate Excel/Numbers exports. If I want, I can take my data out of Rewind at any time.
Rewind is not meant to track individual POIs and activities like Moves: it works with geofences, which can return a general approximation of your location within a specified radius. And that’s enough for me. The ability to see what I did on any given day and visualize time spent in frequent location has been a useful addition to my iPhone – especially because I can forget about it, knowing that the app will always track my time and places in the background.
Rewind is available for free on the App Store.
- The app doesn’t even show up in my weekly battery consumption statistics. ↩︎
- As is often the case with noidentity, the app is rich in details – such as the pulsing indicator for the current location in the Places screen or the graph animations when you tap different locations. The app has a beautiful color scheme and I think it looks great. ↩︎