App review: Companion

An attempt to make your walk home alone a lot safer

Companion is a relatively new app that was originally designed by five college students to help their fellow classmates feel safe while walking around campus alone. Though it is unfortunate that an app like this needs to exist due to how unsafe students feel around campus at night, it does a pretty good job of providing the user with a simple user interface and several distinct safety options.

Here’s how it works: first you have to sign up, entering both your name and phone number, which allows them to track your location in case you need to hit the “Call Police” button. Second, you pick the destination you’re going to walk to from the map on the screen. Once you’ve located your final stop and press “Start Trip,” you add the companions you would like to virtually accompany you on your trip. The person (or people) you choose to be your companion do not need to have the app installed to be able to participate, but must have a smartphone.

Every step is accounted for once you start moving. A green line on both the user and the companion’s screen follows your activity in live motion. While I was testing it, the app registered me running erratically to avoid being hit by a sprinkler. During your walk you have the option to alert your companion by pressing the “I Feel Nervous” button, to which they can reply via text message.

Pressing “Call Police” will alert your local police department, and any abnormal behavior that is recognized by the app (such as your phone falling to the ground, having your earphones pulled out or a change in walking speed or route) will prompt a “smart trigger.” These triggers pop up on your screen asking if you are okay, and you have 15 seconds to confirm that you are indeed okay before an alert is sent to your companion to check on you.

This app has a great foundation and has gained traction recently, but it is not without its issues either. When you get close to your destination, it assumes you “have arrived safely” even though you could still be an entire block away. This poses a problem if your destination is in a particularly unsafe location, and could result in your companion falsely presuming that you are securely where you are supposed to be. It also has been known to send your companion’s messages to an entirely different phone number than originally entered.

Hopefully with some tweaks and bug fixes this app will reach its full potential, and continue to successfully address the growing social issue of feeling unsafe while walking alone.