[App Friday’s] GEM - A Friendly App To Keep A Tab Of Unfriendly Expenses

29th Mar 2013
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For many, this weekend could include plans of a short holiday with friends. So while friends are dear, we have to be careful of the types who take the ‘Jo tera hai woh mera hai’ philosophy very seriously. So make sure you split the responsibilities and the expenses of this holiday, lest it becomes a pain later.

To help you keep track of your money and the expenses you make for this weekend and in the future, try Group Expense Manager or GEM, from Bangalore based FunVoltage. It will save you the trouble of splitting your expenses and then following up to get back your money.


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What is it?

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A screenshot of the Groups view on GEM

As the name suggests, the function of the app is to manage group expenses. You can create a group, and choose people from your phone book as the constituents of the group. Next, you can list expenses for the group. Within the expenses, GEM allows you to fill in particulars like amount, date and time, paid by whom and applicable to whom, etc (See Screenshot).

A really neat feature of GEM is that you can also send text messages to all members of the group reminding them of the money they owe from the trip.

GEM is a useful app for anyone going on a group trip.

Phonegap – Boon or Bane?

GEM isn't a completely native app. It's made using HTML 5, CSS 3 and Javascript which comes together through what is popularly known as Phonegap. Now this makes a lot of business sense, as Phonegap apps can be compiled for multiple platforms using the same code -- one time effort for building apps for multiple platforms. GEM works on Android and all iOS devices.

However this business sense comes with a compromise. The experience of the app isn't great – it's laggy, choppy and some of the functions don't work so well. (for example the search contact function). The design is also singular, as the Android app looks a lot like its iOS app (back button on the top right corner).

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GEM is a very comprehensive expense management system

From a user experience point of view, the app is below par.

Pros and Cons

The biggest pro is its utility; GEM does what it says. While GEM may not be useful to a small group, it can be very useful in larger groups, say of over 10 people. Furthermore, the SMS reminder is pretty neat, which can avoid the sticky confrontation of reminding people to pay up.

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Even simple things like a having a checkbox to choose a contact, rather than text written within square brackets can do the app a lot of good

On the other hand, GEM's biggest pitfall is its below par user experience. Mobile app users are known to refrain from apps that are not good to use, however great the utility is. And in GEM’s case, a lot of bad user experience can be blamed on Phonegap. Even simple things like a having a checkbox to choose a contact, rather than text written within square brackets (Screenshot) can do the app a lot of good.

Our Take

Kudos to FunVoltage for making a high utility app. I have already started using this app to maintain the trips expenses for my outing next weekend. But this is after I spent sometime figuring out this app’s -- which wasn't very easy.

Phonegap makes a lot of immediate sense for a startup. Lesser resources, lesser effort for many apps and mind you, Phonegap does a reasonably good job of it. However, for an app with such a novel utility, the user experience is a major dampner. As GEM acquires more users, this might become a more pressing concern.

Going by how little Phonegap has changed over the past few years, native apps are definitely the way forward in the next few years. But if you are willing to put up with hassles of using it, then GEM truly is a gem of an app.

Download it here.

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