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Microsoft recently released HelpBridge, which enables you to create and manage contact lists you mainly use during emergency situations. It is a free mobile app for Windows Phone, Android and iOS platforms and developed by taking advantage of Windows Azure.

With the help of the app, you will be able to quickly send e-mails and SMS to your contacts and also post emergency message to your Facebook page with the ability to include your GPS coordinates so that message recipients will be able to trace you during natural disasters such as Earthquakes.

As mentioned above, HelpBridge make use of Windows Azure for cloud based services, Aidmatrix RSS feed for providing good donation opportunities and Network for Good API in partnership with GuideStar API to provide the listing of organizations for large credit card donations in collaboration with PayPal.

The app also utilizes Mobile Giving Foundation API for donations of $5 or $10 and VolunteerMatch API for showcasing relevant volunteer opportunities. It provides a list of real time volunteering opportunities posted by relief agencies which enables you to provide direct or indirect support for them.`

It is also possible to donate money to important organizations such as American Red Cross, CARE, and Global Giving via PayPal from within the app user interface including the ability to donate goods and resources with a unique discovery mechanism.

At the time of writing this article, HelpBridge is available only in US. If you attempt to download the app from other countries, you will view a dialog to change location. However, you will not be able to use the app.

The following dialog was displayed when I attempted to download HelpBridge app using iTunes after changing location to United States

However, when I changed the location back to India, App store displayed that the app is not valid for Indian store.

Microsoft official spokesperson refused to disclose any information when asked about the availability of HelpBridge outside United States.

"We encourage the responsible use of this mobile application. Using it outside of emergency situations may dilute the effectiveness of the app when you need it most," says HelpBridge product team.

Several users have reported issues with the app after testing it

Robert commented:

When I try to sign in I get a blank screen.


I cannot get past the screen capturing personal details. There is no way to change the international dialing code.

It seems that user named Mohammed has been disappointed since he downloaded the app over 3G and ultimately ending up with the fact that the app is usable only in United States.

Barry commented:

Unable to get past the "My Preferences" page. I filled in my email address and mobile number, but the "Next" arrow at the bottom is disabled.


Can't register outside the US.. Due to default phone prefix of 1.. Please expand globally

Andy uninstalled HelpBridge after first use and feels

Pretty silly. It is an app you set up to be able to send certain contacts a message if you need help. And a place to solicit donations. When you need help, you need to find your phone, launch the app, type a message and hit send. If you can do all that, why not use txt or email or call? Uninstalled.

Juan Jimenez commented on Google Play:

It doesn't work. Galaxy II S the program crashes when I try to add names. I am going to uninstall it.

Chris Guinotte feels that HelpBridge is a great idea but he is unable to use the app due to certain reasons.

I setup a small test group and tried to send a "I am OK" message. Well when I saw the send box, I tried to select another source of contacts (Facebook, I had used Outlook). Well that caused the app to fail. It can't login from some reason and it cleared by contacts (only the app).

After testing for few more hours, Chris updated the review

It finally logged in. But for one of my contacts there is no mobile phone number, even though there is in the People database. So it won't send the message to the person's phone. No sure what the problem is. Running Andriod 4.1.1. So a little more testing is needed.

Even though HelpBridge has few problems, the app demonstrates the effective use of how Windows Azure can be employed to tackle challanges in real life situations.

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