It might be Foursquare Day today, but it’s one of Foursquare’s location-sharing app’s competitors, Gowalla, who’ve announced a couple of new features for the iPhone edition of their mobile app. The first is location searching and the second is a location-filtered list of friends.
According to Gowalla, one of their most requested features has been “location search”. If you are in dense built-up area with lots of possible check-in spots, there’s a possibility that a spot you want to check-in at is not on their directory and you’ll be waiting to confirm that. That’s because of the network location services time lag that happens when the app pulls in your current location and tries to find the nearest places to display to your device. Now, you can simply search for the check-in spot by typing the name into their location search.
I noticed that despite the area I’m in, a number of really well-known spots are missing in their listing of nearby spots. I’m guessing that their directory is more crowdsourced than I expected, which might actually be true for other location-sharing apps. However, I have not had as many not-listed spots for this area with Foursquare and MyTown, which I have used more regularly in the recent past. This might or might not have to do with the number of each app and their geographic distribution. In other words, maybe more Foursquare users visit this area than Gowalla users.
Gowalla says that they’ve also snuck in another feature, which is an improvement to “find friends.” Previously, you’d see a list of recently checked-in friends worldwide. Now, there’s a “Nearby” option that lets you narrow down the list, making it easier to connect with a friend. The list is sorted by reverse chronologically, so latest check-in first.
If you’re not seeing the these new features, it’s because it the iTunes update might not yet be propagated to all users. Check back later for your iPhone/ iPod Touch/ iPad for updates. (Updates to other devices to follow.) Given these features are a response to user requests, here are a few of my own (coming from someone who’s up to his ears with location-sharing apps and getting fatigued from lack of power features):
(1) The local-filtered friends list is nice, but what would be an even better feature is to allow us to sort the resulting list by distance of friends to our current location, not just by the latest check-ins. For example, I might want to see the friends who have checked-in within 2 miles of my current location in the past 10 minutes.
(2) Make it clear somewhere that rotating your iPhone or iPad in “Spots” mode will display a map. It is entirely possible to use these devices without rotating them, and thus miss the map.
(3) Add some more space above the “Invite All” button from the “find friends via email” feature. Thanks to it being so close to the “+” button for the final person in my list of contacts using Gowalla, I ended up accidentally inviting 734 contacts. Definitely had no intention of doing this and a bit nonplussed about it. Your interface really should ask confirmation, given location-sharing apps are not as well known or used as, say, Twitter or Facebook.
Have you used Gowalla or any of the other location-sharing mobile apps on your smartphone? Do you have a favorite?