First Look: Daylite Touch

daylighttouchphoneAt the Macworld Expo last week, Weldon Dodd and I spent about an hour with Alkyhan Jetha (AJ), the CEO & President of Marketcircle, makers of Daylite, Daylite Touch and Billings. It was a real treat to spend time with AJ as both Weldon and I learned quite a bit about Daylite Touch.

At the beginning of the interview, AJ explained how Daylite started as a tool that they built to better manage their own consulting business. Eventually they realized that the solution they developed for themselves might be valuable to others trying to manage their businesses on the Mac platform. Sure enough, Daylite has become an invaluable productivity tool for many Mac users.

The decision to bring Daylite to the iPhone was easy. AJ said that they downloaded the iPhone SDK within minutes of it appearing on Apple’s web site (one of their engineers just happened to be on the developer page when it dropped) and everything stopped at Marketcircle while they started working on what would become Daylite Touch. A year later, the effort involved in bringing Daylite Touch to market is evident.

Upon initial viewing of the app, it was amazing to see how Daylite Touch is really a deep companion to the Daylite product line. It has the majority of the functionality of the main application and honestly adds functionality that Apple missed when building the iPhone.

As a smartphone and mobile device user for the past 10 years, one thing Apple missed is not providing an aggregated at-a-glance look of today’s appointments and tasks. Further, previous experience with Windows Mobile devices showed me that having a screen with an aggregated view of my current day is critical in telling me what I need to do next.

Home Screen

Well, with mighty praise, Marketcircle nailed this functionality in Daylite Touch with their Home screen. Here is an example:

Today Screen

In the Home screen, Daylite Touch shows me my appointments and meetings for today and tomorrow, as well as letting you know of any tasks that need completion. Further, the Next tab, visible on the right-side of the screen, gives you one-touch access to the details of your next appointment including the location and contact details. Tapping phone numbers will place a call and tapping addresses will launch the built-in Maps application on the iPhone for directions and so on.

Objectives

Objectives is an aggregated view of your Daylite Projects, Opportunities, Pipelines and Notes. Here, you can navigate the different components and edit them with full fidelity. One feature I really appreciated during the demo was the ability to filter by category (as a user of Daylite, this is very powerful). Users can also delegate any item here to other users of Daylite.

Here is an example of a project and its related notes:

Objectives

Contacts

Contacts is an aggregated view of both your contacts and organizations. This simplified view provides a single list of all your phone contacts. Within the next version of Daylite (3.9), you’ll be able to specify exactly which contacts and organizations you want to sync with your copy of Daylite Touch.

What makes this especially valuable is that some folks only want specific contacts on their phone. A weakness with MobileMe is that all of your contacts are synced to the iPhone whether you like it or not.

If you do want to sync all of your contacts with Daylite Touch, there is one caveat. If you have over 500 contacts, you will see them displayed 100 at a time (with standard iPhone pagination). AJ said this was a performance issue that will most likely not be resolved by the time Daylite Touch is available in the Apple App Store.

Calendar

You would think that the Calendar component is just another Calendar app competitor. Well, it isn’t. Daylite Touch’s calendar is much richer than the functionality that Apple’s Calendar provides. Similar to the Calendar app, you can view appointments and meetings via a list, the current day or the month.

Calendar

What’s not in this screenshot is that when you turn the iPhone on its side, Daylite Touch uses the accelerometer to display a week view of your appointments. This is just fantastic.

Also, you can quickly add an appointment via multi-touch. Essentially, users do not need to go into another screen to create a new appointment. Watching AJ perform this task was enjoyable because it was intuitive — it just made sense to create appointments this way.

Synchronization

Synchronization has been completely rewritten for Daylite 3.9 (required for the Daylite Touch Server). Under the hood, OpenBase has been replaced with PostgreSQL. Moving to the more modern, opensource database should provide faster and more stable syncing with offline databases and more reliable connections for Daylite Touch.

A lot of engineering effort has been placed into designing Daylite Touch to only tranmit small packets of data and to gracefully respond to a loss of an internet connection, or an interruption from a phone call. The iPhone app will pick up where it left off and resume syncing as soon as a connection to the Daylite Touch Server is restored.

Pricing and Availability

Daylite Touch will require Daylite 3.9 (a free upgrade for existing users) and a new Daylite Touch device license for each device that will sync with your database. The pricing for these new device licenses has not been set, but AJ said that you can expect them to be competitive with similar apps on other mobile platforms. Reading between the lines, this is not going to be a 99 cent app, or even a $9.99 app, but probably closer to $99.

As an aside, the move to PostgreSQL on the backend also means the end of the ridiculous need to enter all the user licenses on every computer. You will be able to manage all your licenses on the machine that you designate as the Daylite Server.

AJ says to expect Daylite Touch in the first quarter of this year. Given what Weldon and I witnessed at Macworld Expo, its safe to say that we were reasonably convinced that many Daylite and non-Daylite users will install this application. Frankly, it is one of the first complete applications available for the iPhone. Well done Marketcircle, well done.

At a possible ~$99 price point, would you still purchase Daylite Touch? If it’s not worth it to you at that price, at what point would it be?

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