Mar

26

The [email protected] iPhone App: A Review

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dine-at-cu-main

Bwog’s token SEAS kid Kevin Chen reviews Columbia Dining’s latest online initiative: the [email protected] iPhone app.

On Monday, Dining released the [email protected] iPhone app, which gives menus for each dining hall and general dining news. Built by Gilbert Feig, SEAS ’15, the app is an improvement over the Columbia Dining mobile site.

When you open the app, you’ll see a view with big, easy-to-tap buttons for each dining hall’s menu. Above, photos of food currently being served scroll by, and tapping on a photo will show its nutrition facts and where you can eat it. I’m not sure what the dots to the right of each button do, but I think they change colors when the dining hall closes. (This may be related to the fact that I’m red-green colorblind.)

dine-at-cu-main

Unfortunately, unlike the Dining website, the [email protected] app sorts its menus alphabetically instead of showing the main dishes first. For example, in John Jay, this means that “Assorted Regular Pasta” will always be at the top of the list. I was fine with not being able to see photos of the food in the list—Dining’s focus on being artistic rather than representing the food makes them not so useful. (The photo for “Genovese Pizza” has a bunch of pizza ingredients with no actual pizza in sight.)

dine-at-cu-menu

[email protected]’s other features are where it really shines. To get a calorie count, all you have to do is tap the plus button next to everything you want to eat. Then switch to the “My Plate” tab, hit “Total,” and it’ll spit out the nutrition facts for your meal.

dine-at-cu-mealdine-at-cu-calories

Nobody wants to miss Dining’s events, when they bring out NSOP-quality food. But if you’re like me, you tend to forget the dates listed on their posters. Fortunately, the Events tab has a list of all upcoming events, although the minuscule descriptions can be hard to read.
dine-at-cu-events

The News tab shows announcements from Dining, which means it’s basically a tab dedicated to telling you when the dining halls open and close during breaks. It’s a handy reference to have if you don’t feel like navigating their byzantine website on your phone. (For the software developers and pedants keeping score at home, the scrolling on the announcements feels a little bit weird because the announcements appear to be rendered as webpages. An odd decision given the improved typesetting APIs in iOS 7.)

dine-at-cu-news

In summary, the design is a little bit rough in some areas (anyone else notice the icons are blurry?), but [email protected] does its job well and is much easier to use than the Dining website. It’s a solid first release that will probably get more polished over time.

Download [email protected] on the App Store

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7 Comments

  1. 20/20  

    The icons don't look blurry...

  2. Anonymous  

    Finally I can count my macros. Good stuff Bwog

  3. Gil Feig  

    Thanks for the review. If anyone else has feedback, it would be greatly appreciated. You can reach out to me via email (grf2108), or through the Feedback tab with the subject "App Technical Issue."

    A few points:
    - The next update includes a little tutorial, explaining that the green and red dots mean open and closed
    - The order has been changed from alphabetical to categorical in the next update
    - In the Events tab, you can actually tap each event for more info (will add indicators to reflect this)
    - As for web views, I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but all text is rendered natively, and no web views are used
    - The icons haven't appeared blurry on any devices I've tested on, but I'll definitely look into this

  4. Anonymous  

    why isn't this open sourced?

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