With my new job I’ve been traveling on an almost weekly basis which has given me a chance to try out some of the different location based social apps, including FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Google Latitude, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, google Places, Waze, and Footfeed. I’ll start off with the most useful and work my way down:
Foursquare is likely the most used location based app in the United States and I found many reasons why. The idea of mayorship is particularly brilliant as those in the know want to be recognized as such. Almost as much fun is accumulating the badges. I found that this was the app I used the most when I was local to my home. Almost every business can be found (as well as many extraneous locations-“I’m on I-94″?) and, unless you are in the most user-heavy areas, it’s easy enough to become mayor of some location. I haven’t found many deals of interest, but I have looked at them, which is probably the point. Bottom line-I’m addicted!
A very close second and my check in app of choice when on the road. Although there are not as many locations, this lack of clutter is well appreciated on the road. I’m usually only going to well known places (like hotels and restaurants) and don’t need every dry cleaner as an option. Love the badges and pins, although I think this could be combined. The idea of dropping items is a bit confusing, but apparently by design according to the developers. My favorite idea is a seperate pin for each state (although I sometimes cheat with my layovers, which really shouldn’t be an official visit). I still haven’t been able to take advantage of the “trips,” although if I lived in a certain areas it would be more attainable.
No question my go to app for finding a great restaurant. On the whole I’ve found that I agree with the ratings on the app. I’ve used this in Milwaukee and I have to say that I agree with more than 80% of the top eating locals that they recommend. Be warned though, my tastes are more of the flavorful/spicy local joints. If you are more of an Olive Garden/Applebee’s person you may not agree with my findings. It’s tough to find the eatery hours (there’s just a vague b-fast, lunch, dinner, late night listing) and the info sometimes is outdated or wrong. To it’s credit, urbanspoon did warn me that Illinois was new and they would appreciate user feedback to help improve the info.
Bringing social media to drivers, Waze is a sometimes useful app that has helped me a couple times with hidden cops. I love the concept-as you drive with Waze on in the background it learns the roads and your driving habits-but with a limited number of users, the concept falls a bit flat. For one, I’m never positive that it’s running in the background, making me question if I’m accumulating “points” (of course it’s a game!). The hazards and construction are a bit erratic. Finally some data is either wrong or outdated-I was going 60 in a section where the app said I would only be able to go 20. If Waze can get a critical number of users, this could be an amazing app telling you in real time traffic, construction and police hideouts!
I place this lower mostly because I don’t like to announce when I’m out of town live to such a large group (perhaps an idea FB can look into?) and there’s no game aspect. As silly as it sounds, being able to accumulate badges and pins goes a long way to motivating me to check-in. It’s probably the best way to get info on your location out to your friends in real time, especially useful if you live near the great majority of people you want to spend time with. Other than that I haven’t found much utility as you would upload pics and recs via FB and not this app in particular.
Another great location based service, the only problem is that I haven’t much need for it! As I use urbanspoon for my restaurant recs and have already established my day-to-day stores to get things done, I haven’t found much use to open up the app.
I’m a huge fanboy of Google (despite my iPhone) but with urbanspoon out there, the only niche I use this is when I need driving directions to a place. I often will find the location or store that I want to go to from other sources and will then copy and paste into this application to find the best way to get there from “here” I do like the general categories which allow the ability to find any coffee shop nearby (unlike the Starbucks app which, predictably, only show Starbucks) which has helped my find some interesting local places. However, overall, not much use for this app
An interesting concept-the ability to check into a number of location based apps from one source-but has many limits. Once you set up the program you can sign into Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places and Google Latitude with one tap. However, you can’t also upload pics via this app. Some of the api’s don’t allow Footfeed to add locations directly from the app, which means you have to go to the primary app to add it, which gets tedious. You do get kudos for checking into multiple locations, but no real gamesmanship here. I used this as my primary app until I decided that it’s more fun to be able to share pics and tips rather than simply check-in to a location.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big google fanboy, but really see no point to this app. There’s no gamesmanship, no real social aspect and it only links to update my Google Profile page, which probably garners fewer views than my blog ;-) Unfortunately I have to put it with Buzz as ideas that Google completely fell flat with.
One interesting footnote is the emergence of preemptive check-in apps. In effect, when you are thinking of going to the movie you “check-in” so that your friends can join you or you possibly could get deals from the establishment that you are planning on going to. As those apps come out, I’m sure I’ll be using and reviewing them!