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We've been hard at work to improve the SurveyCTO Collect app! These improvements will appear first in an early release version of our Android data collection app which can be found in the product documentation, below the links for the Official release, under the Early release heading:
Why use an early release?
As the above title suggests, you'll get access to the newest features, not yet available in the official release. We have decided to release updates this way, ahead of official releases, to help users to rapidly adapt to changing needs. For example, users adopting computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) are one group of users who are likely to benefit from the next few rounds of early release updates. However, anyone interested in improving their data collection experience with SurveyCTO Collect will benefit.
Which features will I get access to?
This will change frequently, but as of version 2.70.3, the SurveyCTO Collect feature highlights are:
NEW!: Quick setup wizard for remotely configuring large numbers of devices.
Configure settings on one device, and send it out as a default device configuration. The quick setup wizard can send SurveyCTO Collect app settings, blank forms, and the cases dataset out to any number of devices.
NEW!: Store field plug-in metadata and use it inside your forms.
Store a field plug-in's metadata in a form using the plug-in-metadata() function. A useful enabler to field plug-in designs that store metadata. For example, time elapsed until a selection was made in a select_one field (not possible before now).
- Storage is now app-specific for dramatically improved data security.
Instead of using the "SurveyCTO" folder on the device for local storage, SurveyCTO Collect will store all files inside the app. You can optionally use a new public app storage option, if your workflow requires access to SurveyCTO storage.
App-specific is a big change. Uninstalling SurveyCTO 2.70.2+ will delete all data (including unsent filled forms). See the documentation for more details.
- 'App passcode' security feature.
Configure an 'app passcode' to help prevent unauthorized access.
- Record phone calls and audio sensor data with Android versions 4.4 up to 7.
Detect and record phone calls more readily in audio audit fields through the Use VOICE_CALL audio feature. While there is full support for Android versions 4.4 up to 7, there is limited to no support for Android version 8+ (but test your devices and see, as this can vary). Conversation, pitch, and volume statistics will be recorded for detectable call audio.
- Improved automatic form and server dataset updates.
Enable the new Auto download on demand and Auto install downloaded updates options, to more aggressively download updates, and install them. Forms and the Manage Cases list will get updated when opened, informing the user of changes. Use these options with the pre-existing auto-download options.
- Get a full call log of phone call events while the form is being filled.
Use the new phone-call-log() function in your form designs to record numbers dialed, and events with timestamps.
Record device info including Android version and Collect version.
Use the new device-info() function in your form designs to record device info including manufacturer, model, OS version, and SurveyCTO Collect version. Also provides alternative web-standard equivalents like browser name and version. Useful for troubleshooting!
For a comprehensive account of early release improvements, please consult the early release notes page.
How do I install the early release app?
The early release installer file available from the documentation is an Android application installer (an APK file). However, Google prevents the installation of applications from "unknown sources" by default. The early release installer file is safe, though. Just make sure you install the file from the SurveyCTO documentation link above.
There are many guides online about installing Android apps from unknown sources (also known as "sideloading"). For example, see here.
Is it safe to use the early release?
Good question. The short answer is "yes". Early release software is software that falls outside a major platform update. We test early releases using the same high standards that have historically preceded major platform updates from us. However, for now, we've committed to a rapid schedule of improvements, and it is impractical and unfriendly for some users to update their app from the Google Play store so often.
Some projects will strongly benefit from using early releases. You should have a sense from reading the above list of improvements if your work is likely to benefit. The initial rounds of early releases will be especially beneficial to those who have been rapidly adopting CATI as a reaction to COVID-19. However, no matter your data collection approach, by adopting our early releases, you'll be using the most feature-rich set of data collection app features available.
While properly tested, we still recommend carefully testing the early release version you're considering. If nothing else, you'll become closely familiar with how the improvements you're interested in work. However, should you experience a problem with our early release app, please provide feedback to us as soon as possible. If you can't wait for help, you might swap back to the official release version by uninstalling the early release, and visiting the Google Play store to install the latest public version.
Advice for long term projects
After the first early release, more than one early release version will be available. On the SurveyCTO Collect download page, you'll see the main link for the very latest early release app version. So, if you've just discovered our early releases, you'll want to use the very latest version, so you can experience every new improvement.
However, if you have already made the decision to start a project using an early release version of SurveyCTO Collect, and if you have invested time vetting that older version, you may prefer to keep using that version, at least until a break in your project, or until another starts (somewhat like our best practice advice on updating SurveyCTO Collect). In order to get a specific early release version, visit the early release notes page and find the download links below the version number you want.
Providing feedback or reporting problems
Any feedback you can provide will be appreciated and will help to make Collect better for everyone. Your feedback might be that something appears broken, or that you have suggestions on how to improve something. We want all of that feedback, so do get in touch.
Please try the feature you're interested in before writing to us. Remember that you're delving into brand new territory!