It has been a while since we looked at apps that can be used to automate tasks on your Android phone or tablet so I thought it was time to rectify the situation. In a never-ending quest to make my life as easy as possible, I’ve tried everything from Tasker to AutomateIt.
I love to automate things. Love it. I use filters in Gmail to organize my inbox and IFTTT is a service I just can’t recommend highly enough. I use it to manage emails, news feeds, cloud storage backups and much more – all without having to lift a finger. Profile Flow brings the same idea to Android.
The idea behind the app is very simple. Pick something you frequently do with your phone – such as switching Bluetooth on and off – and think about when you do it. In the case of Bluetooth, you may switch it on whenever you leave the house to use a wireless headset, and switch it off again when you get back.
There are settings you have to change on a daily basis, and Profile Flow can do it for you.
To automate this or any other tasks, you need to identify what could be used as a trigger. In the Bluetooth example, leaving the house could be detected by your phone in a number of ways – GPS could work, as could determining which wireless network you are connected to.
You may find that each night you turn down the volume on your phone so you are not woken up in the night by unimportant text messages and other notifications. Profile Flow can be used to automatically switch your phone to a quiet or silent mode between certain hours to save you from having to do so manually.
Limping onto your Android screen, the app gets off to a somewhat unimpressive start – depicting a trash can.
Automating tasks is simple. Create profile, and select a trigger – time of day in this instance. You can then choose what should be done when the trigger is activated (see below for a caveat that you’ll need to keep in mind).
How It Compares
It’s good to see that a single trigger can be used to activate multiple events. This means you could configure your phone to go into silent mode, disable Bluetooth and disable data syncing overnight, all triggered at a specific time.
Multiple triggers can be configured so actions are only performed in very specific circumstances.
Unlike similar tools such as Tasker, it’s not possible to link tasks to each other so you may find that you have create multiple profiles to cater for different eventualities.
While it is possible to have multiple triggers configured in a profile, the way this works is fairly rigid. Specify the time, presence of a wifi signal and location as a trigger, and all three conditions must be met in order for the associated action to be performed; you can’t set up more complex ‘or’ automations without creating a large number of profiles.
Where It Fails
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Profile Flow is that it is only available for phones. There is little reason for a tablet version not to exist, but that is the current situation. For people who frequently travel with both a phone and tablet, this will seem like a missed opportunity. Hopefully it will be rectified in the future.
If you’re a tablet user you’re going to feel let down as Profile Flow only has love for phones.
What is not made clear from the outset is that Profile Flow is not, strictly speaking, a free app. Yes, it is available for free download and it is not billed as a ‘lite’ or ‘trial’ version, but it really should be.
When you try to create a new profile you’ll quickly discover that many of the most useful features of Profile Flow are blocked. This is because there is a previously unmentioned Pro version that you’ll need to buy if you want to make use of all of the various activation methods and tasks.
Like the sound of the pro features? Sadly there’s no trial option available so you’ll have to pay up.
The Pro version is available as an in-app purchase and there are three prices to choose from – yes, this is a case of ‘pay what you like’. Well, almost. The extra features can be unlocked with a $3 purchase, but if you are particularly keen on the app and want to show your support, you can pay $6 or $9 instead. There are no benefits to paying more besides knowing that you are helping support the development of an app you like.
But therein lies the problem. There is no way to test out all of the features of the Pro version. The additional triggers and tasks may sound great, but how do you know they are going to work for you? And to go a step further and ask purchasers to make a donation above and beyond the cost of the app before they’ve even had a chance to properly try it out is nothing short of cheeky.
While I set out with high hopes for Profiles Flow — intrigued to see how it could help my workflow and whether it could replace other automation tools — I was left very disappointed.
My main complaint is undoubtedly the lack of a lite version or a trial period. It seems a bit much to ask users to take a leap of faith and hand over money to unlock features when they have no way of knowing whether they work well or not.
The number of triggers available in the free version of the app is a little on the low side.
The free version of the program is very limited. It serves as a tiny taste of what you might be able to achieve if you are happy to make an in-app purchase, but without the opportunity to try out these ‘pro’ features you may be understandably reluctant to put your faith in the app, and will probably end up looking elsewhere.
In all honesty, this would not necessarily be a bad move. Profile Flow is not a bad app, but there are far better options out there, including those that let you try before you buy – without limitations.