Phone-Based Time Clock Works

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN,

AP Technology Writer
Thu Jun 16, 9:22 PM ET

Many new cell phones come so tricked out with extra features that devising reasons to use them all can be quite a chore. So it was a pleasant surprise to encounter a simple new tool for Verizon Wireless phones called Timecard that actually enhances — rather than saps — productivity.

Timecard is true to its name: It lets remote employees clock in and out on their cell phones. With a few clicks, workers can signal that they've started the day, gone on break, ended a task, started another or signed off altogether. Each entry is instantly relayed to a password-protected Web page that someone at headquarters can check and use to prepare payroll.

The company behind Timecard, New Zealand-based ECONZ Wireless, says its target market is small companies whose repairmen, consultants, sales staff or other in-the-field employees would like to track their billable hours without resorting to excessive paperwork.

Other time-management programs for mobile devices exist, but Timecard presents a compelling package, with a clean, easy interface and simple installation through Verizon's "Get It Now" over-the-airwaves download service. The program costs $9.49 per month for each phone that has it.

Timecard's value stood out when I tested it recently on an LG VX8000 cell phone — a device so boxy, sturdy and bedecked with features that a colleague calls it "the SUV."

In addition to a 1.3-megapixel camera, Web browser and the ability to render three-dimensional video games, the phone had VCAST, the Verizon service that lets you watch mini-video clips including TV show segments, news and music videos.

All that is pretty cool. It's what the 21st century was supposed to be full of. But other than when I'm on a train, in an airport or waiting in a long line, it's hard to think of times when I'd want to get my entertainment from a phone's ravioli-sized screen.

Timecard makes no such demands on your time.

You get in and out of the program in seconds. In addition to clocking in and out, you can signal the beginning and end of individual projects — a nice touch for salespeople calling on multiple clients. If you make a mistake, and clock out when you meant to inform the mother ship you were just taking a break, the program makes it easy to change the entry and explain that it had been "accidental." The moves leave an audit trail on the home office Web page.

This has zero wow factor, of course. But it's just as well conceived and well executed, in its quiet, humble way, as the flashier, noisier programs clamoring for your attention in the virtual Times Square that cell phones are becoming.

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On the Net:

http://www.timecard.econz.com