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Unofficial iPhone PAYG app lets you monitor usage

A few days ago, I posted about using AT&T's inexpensive Pay as You Go services on newer out-of-contract equipment. One of the commenters on that post pointed me to Dynamically Loaded's Pay As You Go Balance and Feature Pack Monitor.

For US$0.99, the application scrapes the account balance and feature packs from the PAYG system, reporting it to you from a one-click app. The app offers a handy way of checking your usage. It also enables you to subscribe to a local notification that reminds you when your balance is due to expire.

For a dollar this is not a bad little utility, but it really left me wanting more. For one thing, it would be nice to have a series of reminder choices -- remind me a week before and a day before, for example. It also doesn't offer reminders for feature packages, and that is honestly far more important to me than the account expiration.

There were other issues as well. The settings are located in the Settings app, which sounds like an awful criticism to dump on a poor little iPhone utility, but as developer after developer has discovered that's precisely where you don't want items to be accessed and updated. Put them in-app and make it obvious how to change them.

It took me minutes (which is hours in user time, also called "one star" in the vernacular) to track the settings down to test it with another account. Yes, it's App Store safe and an approved way to go about things, but hopping out of your app to change two lines of information (the phone number and the PIN) wasn't the user experience I was hoping for.

Another issue: I had to keep force quitting the application in order to test it against AT&T's 611 information line. Turns out if you're logged into an active session, you cannot use 611. Because the app didn't log out after calls, the 611 line thought it was still in control and wouldn't allow me to access my account properly.

So what you have here is a decent app that has the potential for being a much better app, but which is so specialized that the devs probably don't have an active interest in updating it with its current user base. Should that base grow over time, maybe we'll see more development there, but I'm guessing the numbers would have to be in terms of thousands of units sold, not tens or hundreds.

For now, what you see is what you're going to get. It's an okay app, and I think it was worth my dollar. I just wish it were a better app.

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