Geolocation Apps

By Will Sullivan on November 18, 2010 0 Comments Ideas

Mobile Journalism Reporting Tools Guide

The Basics            
  FourSquare Gowalla Brightkite SCVNGR Facebook Twitter
Cost Free Free Free Free Free Free
Size 2.7 MB 1.6 MB 6.2 MB 2.2 MB 3.5 MB 5.2 MB
Direct Messaging Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Create a new location Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
File transfer (i.e. snap a photo) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Friends' Location Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shares with other social media Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Awards/Points Yes - Badges, Mayorships Yes - Pendants, Items Yes - Badges Yes - Badges, Rewards No No
Recommended? Highly Recommended Recommended Not Recommended Not Recommended Recommended Highly Recommended
Where to purchase iTunes App StoreAndroid Market iTunes App StoreAndroid Market iTunes App StoreAndroid Market iTunes App StoreAndroid Market iTunes App StoreAndroid Market iTunes App StoreAndroid Market
Manufacturer Naveen Selvadurai Alamofire, Inc. SCVNGR Facebook Twitter
  Beluga Fast Society TweetDeck Broadcastr Color Google Goggles
Cost Free Free Free Free Free Free
Size 4.06 MB 1.67 MB (Android) 6.8 MB (iPhone) 2.4 MB 2.3 MB 5.2 MB  
Direct Messaging            
Create a new location            
File transfer (i.e. snap a photo)            
Friends' Location            
Shares with other social media To Facebook Facebook and Twitter     Twitter/Facebook  
Recommended?   YES Recommended Not Recommended Recommended Yes
Where to purchase App Store and Android Market App Store and Android Market iTunes App Store & Android Market   iTunes App Store  
Manufacturer Beluga Inc. Fast Society TweetDeck, Inc Broadcastr Inc. Color Labs, Inc. Android Market, App Store.


Review by: Andrew Dumas

A screen grab of the Foursquare application
A screen grab of the Foursquare application

Compatible with Android, iPhone (Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later)

Foursquare is a fun little application that seems to be getting the brunt of some pop culture venom these days. Many of my colleagues say that it's everything from over-reaching to lame. It seems especially to be catching flak from the college-aged population. However, if you're willing to stick with it and ignore the mild social stigma, there's some interesting features to mined from the app.

Using it isn't all that difficult, although you're going to need a solid internet connection. Less than four bars of Wi-Fi is probably a no-go, and the 3G can be iffy sometimes. Once you have the connection, though, it's a piece of cake. The Check In button gives you a list of places, You can choose from the list, use the search bar to look for a nearby location, or create a new location by hitting the "+" button at the top of the screen. Once you've chosen or created a new location, just write what you're doing (think facebook or Twitter status) and hit check in.

Now comes the addicting part of Foursquare. You get points for how many stops and new locations you go to each day. From there, medals and awards can be gained depending on how many new locations you visit, how many stops you make, or how often you revisit certain locations. If you're really lucky, you may even become mayor of a location (meaning you've checked in there the most times in the last two months). Becoming mayor an be difficult if you're just joining the service and don't frequent a lot of places often, as someone else has probably been checking in quite regularly. However, if you can find a spot that hasn't been checked in at before, then only a few visits makes you a mayor. Alternatively, creating a new place, like for instance your home, and checking in can be a quick route to becoming mayor.

To make matters more interesting, some businesses are beginning to jump on the Foursquare bandwagon. Certain locations will offer deals if you check in at their location (or if you're mayor). Businesses are also offering unique medals to users who go to certain areas and check-in as a way of showing off your ability to get around. However, users should be careful. Only recently, I followed the scent of a "special" to a store, only to discover that it was some kind of practical joke and not at all a real business offer.

In all, the application is fun, but it's not terribly interactive. You get on when you arrive somewhere, check-in, then shut it off. You can see who else is at your location, but you can't see their status unless they are your friends, and not enough people that I'm friends with use the program that I can comb through their statuses for more than a few minutes, meaning it's a check in, log out sort of process for me. But for some people out there, it's going to be a fun new way to play around with their friends, gain some points, and hopefully some bragging rights by becoming a mayor.


Review by: Amanda Heisey

Gowalla's user interface has superior graphics, but fewer users typically.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later

This application is a lot like Foursquare in that it is a geo-location tool. You can see where your friends are and where you've been in the past. You can collect pins and items that people "drop." It's a good way to learn a city and know about hot spots and get tips.

However, in smaller towns this application is definitely not as affective as it would be in say, Chicago, or other larger cities. There are less people that actually play along with "dropping items" for you to find. There are also fewer locations that people have added in smaller cities and towns. I found myself adding a lot of locations to the application. That just means there aren't many people using it in my area.

In terms of journalism it's a good way to learn about the area you're in if you're not familiar with your surroundings. It's also a good way to connect with others in your immediate area. It's more of a game than Foursquare, but there's no becoming mayor in Gowalla.

The user interface has a better design that FourSquare, but for an application that is all about finding friends it fails, simply because you (probably) won't find as many friends using Gowalla.


Review by: Andrew Dumas

The Brightkite application's opening screen.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later

Brightkite is another locator application along the lines of Foursquare and Facebook. It's fairly basic, as it goes. You press the check in button, then either choose your current location from the list of choices, search your location and hen choose, or create a new location. You're also prompted (but not forced) to post a status update. From there, things get a little interesting.

You can search who is in your area by varying amounts of kilometers, also broken down into labels, like "neighborhood". You can search for certain people, or for places, or even for posts. And you can even comment on these posts, which is something that several similar applications don't offer.

Finding friends is fairly painless. Brightkite, with your permission, will search your Facebook, Twitter and Address book to find anyone who is currently using Brightkite. Don’t know anybody? That's ok, just click on someone in you area and friend them. You can also send direct messages, if you having something you don’t want to post as simply a comment.

The interface itself could use a little cleaning up and efficiency overall. It definitely took some time to find my way around the application, and some parts seemed a bit excessive. But for an application that attempts to meld Facebook and Foursquare, it would necessarily have to walk a fine line between complexity and usability. Now to see if more people sign up for the application, which is, in my opinion, it’s major downfall. Few people have heard of it or are using it.


Review by: Jennifer Elston

SCVNGR doesn't have many graphics and has a very simple user interface.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later

SCVNGR is my one of my least favorite geolocation applications. Foursquare is the easiest to use, because there are a lot of graphics and it is by far the most popular of the applications. This is nice because not only can you find a lot of your friends on FourSquare, but there are a lot of places that you can check in to that have already been created. This is not the case with SCVNGR. I cannot find a single person who has even heard of this application, let alone who uses it. Therefore, all of my checking in that I have done has been for my own benefit because I have zero friends to report to on this application. The only people I can see on this application are people who geotag their posts on Facebook, but only if you connect with Facebook friends and allow the application to access your Facebook page.

This application is like a game and the purpose is to receive a lot of points and complete treks and challenges. To earn points, you need to check in. You have the option of checking in for one point, a social check-in for two times the points you check in with. For a social check in you must bump phones with another iPhone to check-in with a friend. If you "say something" about the location or whatever you want, you can receive two points. Finally, you can snap a picture of the location you are at for two points. If you are knowledgeable about the location, you can create a challenge.

You can go on "treks," which I was initially very excited about. When I clicked on the trek button, there was only trek available and it said Mizzou. I clicked on it and it only had one location - Faurot Field. I was very disappointed. The only positive I found was that at three locations in Columbia you can redeem rewards if you check in at that location. The only locations available were GameStop and Journeys. I was never close enough to these locations to check in and see the possible reward, but with so few people on this application I wonder how big of a reward it could possibly be.

I like the social check in feature, but other than that, this application is a huge disappointment. There are very few people on this application, and thus very little activity on each of the locations you can check in at.


Review by: Andrew Dumas

Facebook app
Facebook is the world's most popular social network.

Compatible with all Phones

The Facebook application is pretty self-explanatory, especially the geo-location feature, which has been simplified to the name "Places". If you have the updated version of the application on your phone, then you have this little feature too.

The first thing you have to do is tap the Places icon. If you hold your finger on the list that shows up and drag it down then release it, you will see an updated page of where your friends have last checked in at. I know, handy for figuring out where everyone managed to get to on Saturday night. However, to let everyone know where YOU are takes a little more work on your part.

Tap the Check In button in the corner of your screen, and a new list will appear, giving you options for where you might be. It'll start with the top 5, but you can always choose to see more. If you still don't see anything, hit the "+" button in the top corner. Now you've got a Google map, a text box for a name, a text box for a description (which is optional), and your keyboard has become visible. Not too tough, type in the name of the place you’re at. Once you’ve finished, you can check in, and you’ll now be on an updated list so that friends and family can know where you’re at all the time.

That's about all there is to the application as far as posting your current location. The rest of the app functions about the same as the computer version. As for the actual feature, Facebook made it functional in that it works, but they haven't necessarily developed it as other applications, like for instance Foursquare, have. Nothing is going to happen when you check in except that you are now visible in that location by your Facebook friends. So if letting everyone know where you had coffee this morning is a priority, then go for it, but anyone looking for anything more from their fun new application can find more to play with elsewhere.

Twitter, Echofon

Review by: Amanda Heisey (Twitter) and Jennifer Elston (Echofon)

twitter client echofon
The micro-blogging tool Twitter's client Echofon

Twitter compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later; Echofon compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later


The Twitter application is pretty self-explanatory. You update your followers with a status that's no longer than 140 characters. These are used to update their friends on where they are, to share a picture, video or link to a story. It's a good way to get news from people you know or people you want to keep tabs on. For journalists it is a good way to see what news other people are looking at. Many times breaking news stories will be a trending topic. With hash tags (#) you can connect your tweet about an event or issue to everyone else's. This way it's easy to keep track of what others are saying about a topic.

There are different apps you can try that all relate to Twitter. To each their own, but I happen to like the traditional one. It's easiest to see, use, and it's not complicated to figure out. If you're looking for something like a Tweet Deck, this is not for you. I tweet already, and if you are already accustom to tweeting about random events in your day this application will fit right in.

Echofon:Echofon is very similar to the twitter application on iPhone. To write a new twitter post, click the pencil on a piece of paper in the upper righthand corner. To add a person, click on the button with two people on it. Simply start to type in the person you want to mention and if you are friends with them, their name with quickly appear. This is much faster than writing out their full name after an @ sign. You can also add your location by pressing the geotag button, which looks like a circle with four marks on it. This will put a line under your tweet with your location. There is also the option of adding a picture/video from either your camera roll or you can choose to shoot a video or a photo.

Everything is very self-explanatory for this application if you know anything about twitter. The bottom row of buttons has your home (your timeline), mentions where your @handle is tweeted, private messages, lists you can build to see certain groups of people and you can search tweets or for new people.

My favorite thing about this application for a long time (before #newtwitter emerged) was that it is very simple to see a conversation between two people. If two social media experts are having a conversation, simply click the tweet. Under the tweet it will say "in reply to _____". Click that and it will take you to the full conversation, which looks and feels just like text messages on an iPhone.The only thing I don't really like, which is just picky on my part is the timeline refresh button is the refresh arrow and now a pull down to refresh menu. This is really just me being picky, because the timeline refreshes itself every so often. Other than that, this is by far my favorite of the two twitter clients.

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