I’ve become obsessed with location based applications for my iPhone. The concept is easy to understand, where ever you go no matter where, click a few keys on your mobile phone and let the world know where you are. The little geo-apps can connect with your other popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and can even identify friends from these other services that are using the same location based apps as you. Yelp was my first introduction to using an application to share my whereabouts with my friends. Though I rarely used it because of the buggy interface, I got the idea and moved on to bigger and better things.
Foursquare caught my attention a year ago when most of my network that attended SXSW started updating their profiles with their locations all over Austin. It started spreading like a firebug and next thing I knew I was seeing updates from people all over the US sending out digital beacons of their place in the world. For the most part the East Bay was untouched territory, most of the locations available in Foursquare here in and around San Francisco which has a higher concentration of people. Little by little I started seeing stores, restaurants and even vacant lots becoming options for me to check into.
As I travel around, I check into airports, hotels and where ever else I go and I earn little badges and become the virtual “Mayor” of locations. I guess it’s cute and a little ridiculous but I still find myself trying to earn more of them and feeling a sharp pain when I get notified that someone took my title as Mayor from my local Starbucks.
Gowalla launched at the same time at SXSW but I only heard about them this year. I guess after reading this post on Mashable about the two companies the reason for the lack of adoption was due to issues with their service. I downloaded the free Gowalla app from the iTunes store and started to play around. The first thing I found was that there were many more places already identified in my area. I think Gowalla must have pre-populated cities with businesses to make it easier. Having to spend the time to add a new location became boring and if the place didn’t already exist using Foursquare I typically just checked into the closest place available.
Gowalla works a little differently. With their service you have to be with approx 50 meters of the spot in order to check in. As annoying as this was at first, it makes a lot of sense. No more checking into a location from the other side of town just to get a virtual prize. Instead of badges and Mayorships, Gowallians get stamps on their passports, collect pins and find items along the way that you get to tote around in a digital backpack. One of the features I like in Gowalla is that people can add photos to the locations, so if I go to a sushi restaurant, I can share a picture of the place with everyone in my network or even the next guy that checks into the location will see it.
Now back to Yelp. I saw that they had an update for the iPhone app and decided to open it up to see what was new. Not surprisingly they added a more simplified check in feature. More up to par with foursquare and Gowalla. Yelp has an enormous user base. Though the site is primarily positioned for reviews, making it an application that people can check in from add to their appeal. I don’t want to write a review for every hot dog stand I eat at but being able to see who else was there, when and get a general idea of what other people think about the place does make Yelp a good tool to use.
There are bound to be more location based mobile applications that hit the market. I bounce around the few I listed here and lean more toward Foursquare than anything else because I am most comfortable with it.
Do you use a different app? If you are using one of these, lets get connected.