Localization Apps have become all the rage as of late with social media, but three have definitely taken center stage and continually dominate the App market for their genre. They’re all a little similar, but a few have large advantages over one another, and they most certainly aren’t for every App user. All three of these Apps – Loopt, Foursquare, and Gowalla – are available on the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and Blackberries, and all are free to download.
Loopt is the oldest localization App of the three and is definitely not the best. Its original purpose was just to highlight where your friends in your neighborhood are so that maybe you could meet up with them if you were nearby. The only drawback is that you must first activate Loopt in order for it to pinpoint your location, so if you’re out running errands, you may not think to open Loopt each and every time you change positions so that your friends know where you are. In a world where text messaging is fairly cheap and quick, there is really no need for a consumer to use the App for merely this purpose.
However, thanks to other localization Apps (that will be mentioned soon), Loopt has upgraded itself a bit since then with a new look and new features, which includes Twitter and Facebook announcements (these days, if your social media doesn’t connect to both of these, it’s useless). One of the most unique aspects it offers is the Events feature, which lets the user know what local events are going on around them (up to a 20 mile radius) for that week. This would be useful for travel, to help fill those unplanned days or nights. Loopt also lets users enter in if they liked a place or not and offer reviews, which is beneficial to both travelers and shop owners. For this feature alone, I can see the use of Loopt for business owners and consumers, but the Yellow Pages and Yelp already offer similar features. Both are far more reliable and more people use them, so the chances of accurate ratings and reviews increases.
Loopt can also alert the user with push notifications if friends are nearby. Again, this sounds great, but your friends have to remember to open Loopt for it to be of any use.
Loopt’s biggest downfall is its accuracy in searches and in pinpointing the user’s location. Without fail, each time I tried to check in to a location, it never listed places around me on its own, forcing me to always manually type in the locale. In addition, the App never accurately found where I was, so even when I would go through the effort of checking in to a place, it would never display that I was actually there. It kind of defeated the entire purpose of using Loopt.
Bottom line, if you use other localization social media Apps, don’t bother with Loopt.
Foursquare is definitely one of the most hyped localization Apps right now, and for everything it offers, it deserves every bit of it. The App was originally created strictly for social media purposes. Check in a place, announce it on Twitter or Facebook. It fit very nicely with both of them, since most people were using these forms of social media for exactly that. The hook that captured the attention of many people was the mayor achievement, which crowned the user with the most check-ins for that locale as the mayor of that place. No, you don’t get any tangible rewards out of it, but it’s always fun to say that you’re the mayor of a place. I still brag that I’m still the mayor of the Square Enix booth at E3, because one, I love seeing the “whatever” looks on my friends’ faces and two, no one can take away that crown until next year.
Foursquare has branched out a little bit more in its usefulness in that you can now view who of your friends have checked in near you recently, leave remarks about certain places, and even leave little scavenger hunt-like to-dos for others to complete. Like Loopt, you and your friends still have to check in to see who is around you, but at least Foursquare offers a bit more of an incentive to do so, as little and meaningless as it is.
However, many business owners have jumped on the Foursquare bandwagon and offered specials to Foursquare users. As I mentioned previously, Starbucks had a drink special for its mayors, and right now, Chili’s is offering free chips and salsa to everyone who checks in. For those wondering, yes, I have taken advantage of this special as often as I can.
Foursquare is the best localization App right now, because users can receive both tangible and intangible rewards for simply using it and business owners can connect with their clientele far more easily as well.
Gowalla is the newest of the Apps and is quickly becoming one of the most popular. Everyone in Texas should download it just for the fact that the developer is based in Austin. You should keep it because it’s fun.
On the surface, Gowalla looks like a Foursquare copycat with spiffier graphics. You check in to places, try to top the leaderboards in number of check-ins, and you can announce all of your check-ins on both Twitter and Facebook. And like Loopt, you can leave comments about the place, find out who of your friends is nearby, and learn of events in your area. However, what makes Gowalla unique is its twist with virtual geocaching.
For those not familiar with geocaching, it’s a hobby that involves using a GPS locator to find doo-dads hidden by other geocachers. In other words, it’s a gigantic scavenger hunt. Gowalla implements this by leaving random odds and ends at different places for users to pick up. Once you pick it up, you can add it to your permanent collection or drop it in places for others to find. This has inspired other Apps to recently release, Gowalla Sniffer and GowallaSwag, which help users find special items.
Gowalla also has pins for users to collect in their virtual Gowalla passports. The pins can be obtained by taking pictures of areas and posting them, or completing Trips, which are lists of stops users must check-in to in order to complete. For example, the Dallas Championship Chase Trip requires users to check-in at the American Airlines Center, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
While Gowalla is a lot of fun to tinker with, it’s more for the hardcore user than someone casually checking in places. It’s becoming more of a game than anything else, which businesses can use for their advantage, but no one has yet. It won’t be long before Gowalla overtakes Foursquare in regards to beneficial uses for both business owner and consumer.
Which App do you prefer?