Mixing storytelling and science, Saga launches as a smartphone sidekick

saga app launchWhen the iPhone 4S first debuted, its big sell was Siri. The assistant app was supposed to be the first realization of AI technology, the best way to utilize what the smartphone could do. Of course we soon learned that all the celebrity endorsements in the world couldn’t make Siri what it wasn’t, and it’s been an often-mocked, largely disappointing feature.

It’s due for an upgrade, which we’ll likely see in the iPhone 5, but until then there’s something of a gap space in the market for developers to exploit. Cue a Google reactionary product! Debuted at Google I/O, Google Now looked to be a step up from the Siri experience, with a deeper integration into how you use your smartphone and tighter predictive abilities.

SAGA nowBut it’s not here yet, and it’s certainly not going to be native for any iPhones in the near future. So again, hello market gap. It’s a gap that the team behind Saga noticed. “Scout’s honor, hand to god, we did not know Google Now was in development but when we heard from our guy at I/O about the announcement, we were super thrilled,” CEO Andy Hickl tells me. “We were really excited because it made our job making people understand this space so much easier.”

In a quick demo of Saga (which launches today and is free for iPhone), Hickl showed off how the phone, much like Google Now, reads what you’re using your phone to do and then makes predictions about what you might want to know and keeps a dynamic log of your history. Hickl describes it as a heads-up display for life: it’s a behind-the-scenes way to use your data, location, and habits to figure out what type of help you might need.

Under the hood, Saga uses your GPS information via nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, the phone’s accelerometers, and puts that into its backend machine to make data observations that it then packages nicely and displays to you. It doesn’t rely on check-ins or need frequent location updates you manually log; Hickl insists it gets down the minutiae of your movement, which is something that should interest Quantified Self enthusiasts who like the ability to track their every human moment.

Saga suggestionsTo that end, Saga launches with a few key platform integrations. The app will work with Runkeeper, Fitbit, and Withings integration, and Nike+ is on the horizon.

Of course you can’t talk about a location-based app without talking about battery drain – the great bane of location aware apps. Luckily for us and developers, this is getting better faster and faster, and Hickl says that you can use Saga for 30 hours on one overnight charge. The launch was actually delayed because the team wanted to get battery drain down ahead of the debut.

Saga infographicIn addition to battery life, there’s also many questions about data brokerage here. “If you tell us to nuke your data, to forget everything that Saga ever knew about you, we will do it,” Hickly says. “We want people to use this with a sense of safety. We will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever sell this information to a third party.” I’m happy to say that’s a verbatim quote.

With that in mind, I had to ask him about a small ad I saw during the demo. In a log of his daily activity and location history, I saw a Groupon ad for a restaurant and asked if Saga would be using hyperlocal display ads as a revenue means. “We’re not getting affiliate money for this, and we’re probably, honestly, going to take them out,” he tells me. He says Saga was testing displaying relevant, local ads but that this leads to questions… like the one I had to ask. “We’re an honest broker, so we don’t want people to wonder why we’re showing them that.  We don’t want you to question your sidekick.” 

Home Theater

Spotify adds artist-blocking feature, despite its denials

Though it continues to claim you can't do it, there is plenty of evidence that Spotify added an artist-blocking feature to its platform, making it easy for users to never hear a specific musician or band.

10 top features you should be using on your Apple Watch

The Apple Watch can do more than just tell you the time, but you may not be aware of all the different functions it has. Our list of the 10 most often used functions and features will help you understand what it can really do.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.

Android vs. iOS: Which smartphone platform is the best?

If you’re trying to choose a new phone and you’re not sure about the merits and pitfalls of the leading smartphone operating systems, then come on in for a detailed breakdown as we pit Android vs. iOS in various categories.

Join the Apple club with our complete guide to switching from Android to iOS

If Android simply isn’t cutting it for you anymore, then you might be considering Apple’s warm embrace. Here’s how to make the switch from Android to iOS without losing your contacts, sleep, or hair!

With weeklong battery life, the new Honor Watches are a real Dream to wear

Honor has unveiled the new Honor View 20, one of the best smartphones of the year. Alongside it, however, the company also took the wraps off of the new Honor Watch Magic and Honor Watch Dream.

Photograph your meal with the Foodvisor app for caloric, nutritional estimates

Many of us understand the importance of a healthy diet, but counting calories and diving into nutritional data is a lot of work. The Foodvisor app for Android or iOS gives you a calorific and nutritional breakdown of your food from a photo.

2019's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.

Moschino glams up the 48-megapixel Honor View 20 at Paris launch

After its success with the View 10 in 2018, Honor has announced its sequel, the Honor View 20 with an entirely new type of display which has a hole-punch for the camera rather than a notch.

Get your photos on billboards with Apple’s 2019 ‘Shot on iPhone’ program

Like previous years, Apple has once again launched its Shot on iPhone program, which encourages users to submit the best photos they've taken with their iPhone. Ultimately, the winners will get their photos featured on billboards.

Embrace your inner Dr. Frankenstein with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and this cool app

Ever wanted to make your favorite toy come alive? If so, and you have a Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then you need to grab the 3D Live Maker app and try out some augmented reality magic. Here's how to use it.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus photo leaks with dual front-facing camera

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.
Social Media

Google will begin shutting down the classic Hangouts app in October

Google confirmed that it will begin retiring the classic Google Hangouts app in October. The company will start by pushing users to move to the new Google Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.