November 21, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
One of the best Android apps that I’ve ever had the pleasure of using is Tasker, which automates functions and settings on Android based on triggers. I love it because it can launch Foursquare as soon as I check into my favorite bar or turn off auto-sync when my battery drops below 20 percent.
However, Tasker has become so complex that it’s not easy to grasp. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to discover Smart Actions, a new app included in the Droid Razr that provides task automation in a simpler interface. Let’s be clear in saying that Motorola’s new app is not as powerful or far-reaching as Tasker, so it isn’t good enough for everyone. But for triggering automatic functions based on certain phone conditions, Smart Actions is ready to go to work.
Smart Actions starts by setting up Rules with a trigger, which is a condition of the phone that should lead to actions. Users can set triggers for location, timeframe, battery level, headphones, missed calls, or a few other factors. Once a trigger goes into effect, users can set actions.
For instance, entering my office triggers the “Work” rule. When the phone recognizes it’s in the building, it launches actions that switch the ringer to vibrate, turns off background sync (since I’m at a computer), and even sends a custom notification telling me to “Complete TPS reports.” There’s a long list of possible uses for Smart Actions, including these examples:
- Send a text message when leaving a site or when you miss a call. Users can send only to specific numbers or use triggers to send “Can’t call, in meeting” during certain time periods.
- Launch Google Music or your favorite music/podcast app automatically when headphones are plugged-in
- Extend battery life by turning down brightness, shortening display timeout, and disabling background sync when battery falls below 30 percent.
- Launch a favorite website at a given time or place. For instance, I watch Tech News Today everyday, so the phone could auto launch that website when the show starts.
Smart Actions is a nice feature to tack on the Razr, even if it’s somewhat limited. The app is able to combine multiple triggers like only performing an action if the battery goes low in the afternoon, but not all triggers are compatible. It also doesn’t let users set priorities, so the Low Battery rule overrides my “At Home” rule even though I would prefer the opposite to be true. The Motorola help menu suggests creating additional rules to deal with conflicts, but that’s not the most elegant solution.
Gripes aside, Motorola did a good job with creating Smart Actions. It’s a user-friendly way of automatically performing common tasks and managing features to increase battery life. Smart Actions is available now only for the Motorola Droid Razr, but Alain Mutricy, SVP of Product and Portfolio Management told me it will appear in all future Motorola Android products.