Watch an event unfold live with Spontly

Spontly is a new iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases.

Spontly is a location-aware mobile social app that allows users to “check in” to events and then post photos and messages to that event’s dedicated feed. In this way, it can be used both by people at the event to interact with one another and perhaps see who else is present, and for those who missed out to see some pictures and thoughts from the event. It can also be used by event organizers to help promote their event, to post details that attendees might have missed, and also to get some real-time feedback on how the event is going.

Spontly requires a Facebook account to use, which will probably make it unpopular in territories where App Store reviewers have historically been resistant to Facebook-only social apps such as the U.K. The app does not use anything more than the user’s basic information and their birthdate, however, and as with other Facebook apps it is up-front about the permissions it requires. It would, however, perhaps be to the app’s benefit for the developer to provide a non-Facebook option not only for those who do not wish to connect their social presence to unfamiliar apps, but also for those who do not have a Facebook account at all.

Once into the app proper, the user is taken to a fairly standard-looking interface with a toolbar across the bottom and the upper portion of the screen changing depending on which of the “tabs” has been selected.

The Events tab on the far left uses the user’s location to discover upcoming or past events as well as review events they were a participant in. “Upcoming” events are presented in chronological order, beginning with the earliest to start. This means that some “upcoming” events which are still unfolding appear to have dates in the past — it took over a screen height’s worth of scrolling to discover events that actually were “upcoming” — perhaps renaming this section to “current” rather than “upcoming” would make things clearer. Past events, meanwhile, are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first. This means the behavior of the user interface is inconsistent, and this fact isn’t immediately obvious due to the small size of the date and time text on the screen.

Users may “check in” to an event from the Events tab, and this records the fact they are present. Once checked in, a user may post photos and messages to that event’s feed, which then gains focus in the dedicated “Feed” tab, allowing the user to quickly review it without having to search for it again. The app will not allow posting of any content until the user has checked in to their first event. Posts may include a photograph (taken “live” only — there is no facility to import from the photo library) and a text update along with one of four emoticons depicting the Spontly mascot/logo character in various states of happiness and/or distress.

The “My Spontly” part of the app promises “vouchers,” presumably acquired during check-ins and intended to be presented to event organizers for various benefits, but at the time of writing I was unable to test this functionality due to no supported events being nearby.

Herein lies a bit of an issue with Spontly at the time of writing: no-one’s using it, at least not in my local area. At present, the few events that were marked as currently unfolding only had contributions from a single user — very obviously the event’s organizer in all cases — and no interaction or comments from other users whatsoever. To compound this problem somewhat, it’s not at all obvious how (or even if) end users can create their own events, or just check in to those that have been submitted from other sources. To make this a useful social tool, the developers should consider putting the tools for event creation in users’ hands, as then it will likely see a lot of use for more “personal” events such as parties and nights out — while this will make for a more cluttered feed, it will make the overall community seem a lot more active than the ghost town it presently appears to be.

Spontly has some potential to be useful for event organizers, but at present it feels like a half-baked idea that needs some significant work before it is likely to catch on. At present, there’s no real compelling reason for users to post their photos and updates from an event on Spontly rather than Facebook — particularly given that Spontly requires sign-in via Facebook in the first place. Its interface also needs some work and, as previously noted, the facility for users to create their own events certainly wouldn’t go amiss, either. For now, then, Spontly isn’t a particularly useful app, but it’s perhaps worth checking back on in a month or two to see if it has advanced at all.

You can follow Spontly’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

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