Software: Tasting Notes (iPhone)

Monday is Teahouse/Tea Room, Accessory and Brand Review Day!

Ahhh, software. Always the promise of making our lives easier, and always the worry that it won't. In the case of "Tasting Notes" from App Shop, LLC... I'm mixed.

Quick Info

Rating 2/5
Title Tasting Notes
Publisher App Shop, LLC
Author App Shop, LLC
Version 1.2
Price $4.99

The first thing you'll notice about "Tasting Notes" when you launch it is that it offers options for notes on just about any vice you could think of: wine, beer, whisky, cigars, coffee and yes... tea. While this is certainly promising, it always makes me worry when I see an application trying to cover so much ground. It just never seems like it's going to be focused enough. Does "Tasting Notes" fall down the dirty pit of mediocrity? Let's find out!

Tasting Notes

Tasting Notes

Once you make your way into the tea notes section you'll find an initially very sparse list. This is to be expected since we haven't taken any notes yet. However, my first instinct wasn't to click on the green {+} button next to the empty entry... it was to tap the blue {>} arrow next to the field. It would have been nice if the field were able to activate the new note functionality itself. If no entries are present, it may have been even better to just include a big button which says "Start your first entry" or something like that.

Creating a new tea note

Creating a new tea note

When creating a new note, the application seems to offer plenty of options. Good room for a long tea name, the option for noting the tea's type, taking a picture of the tea, lining to the website, rating the tea and a bunch more. Unfortunately, the application falls short here. There are a few notable reasons why.

First off, when selecting the type of tea, you're limited to a single type of tea. Not much room for a Green/Black blend, but it was encouraging to see Pu'erh and Rooibos in the list. Second, the rating option provides only a single slider bar for rating teas. Three sliders should be the minimum here allowing you to rate the tea's flavor, aroma and boldness (or body) independent of one another.

Also, I want to make particular light of the fact that any field requiring text input doesn't automatically take focus. This means you have to tap inside the field to begin editing text. Considering you have to tap the item to indicate which field you want to alter anyway... this is an extra tap. If this were with just one field, I could envision it being a bug. But it's not. It's with every field. That means, assuming you never had to go back into a field to correct part of your entry... and you filled out every field requiring text input... that's an extra eight taps which are completely unnecessary.

There's also no room to note origin, varietal, source or brand name with the given fields in this application. To be fair there is a "Notes" area here... but that's not quite the same. I just felt very limited here.

The tea note

The tea note

It was nice having the ability to take a picture of the tea itself. While I could rely on a photo to provide me the brand name of the tea, perhaps I would have taken a photo of the liquor instead. You could also put the brand name in the "Name" field for the tea, but it doesn't feel the same.

Using the camera

Using the camera

Emailing the notes on the teas seems interesting if you were wanting to share your ratings with friends or family. I really could make use of this feature, and I like its simplicity. It's a shame it has to drop you out of the application in order to provide this feature. Perhaps this is Apple's doing, I'm not certain. The icon for this feature doesn't scream "Email" either. It's hidden in the upper right hand corner of the screen as a square box with a pencil looking thing in it. I easily could have mistaken it for an icon intended for creating a new note.

Emailing the tea note

Emailing the tea note

Once you have created a complete tea note, and drop out of it, you're presented with a new version of the "Tea Notes" screen. This time, there's no initial indication of how to add a new note at all. Only once you've hit the "Edit" button at the top right are you offered the chance to enter yet more notes. Considering the earlier noted tap requirements for fields requiring text input... this makes the Tasting Notes application extremely tap happy.

Tap Happy Interface

Tap Happy Interface

It may seem harsh, but I'm slapping "Tasting Notes" by App Shop, LLC with a rounded 2 out of 5 for the tea portion of this application. I think it has limited appeal for enthusiastic tea drinkers and the application's tap happy interface is a real drawback. While I think the application is trying to do something noteworthy... as so many who try to much often do... this app falls short in a lot of rudimentary areas. Here's a nice list for you:

Pros

  • Can take pictures
  • Can email entries
  • Can record tea notes

Cons

  • Extremely tap happy interface
  • Cannot note brand name as a field
  • Cannot record separate ratings for different aspects of the tea
  • Emailing the entry takes you out of the application
  • Cannot email more than one entry at a time
  • Nation of origin is not a field option
  • Cannot select more than one "type"
  • Parts of the interface are quirky (adding a new note, recording a web address into a note)
  • Cannot record the varietal
  • Cannot record the sub-class of tea (ok it's black, but what kind? Assam? Darjeeling? Ceylon? Flavored?)

For a five dollar application ($4.99), Tasting Notes really lacks a lot of the pizazz and flair I've come to expect from software for the iPhone and iPod Touch in this price range. I hope they can up their game a bit and correct some of these deficiencies. I would really appreciate an application flexible enough to handle the rigors of rating teas online. The antiquated pencil and paper method is getting tiring now and I have several moleskines of notes I would LOVE to transfer into digital format.

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