I like to try social networks. I find them fun. So when you combine a social network with a game element, it should be a sure fire hit with me right? That’s why I tried Foursquare. It’s a location based social network game. This should be fun, I check in at places see who else is there, and the more places you check in over the course of a night, the more points you get. Well, I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to (being married and having kids does that do a person), so I wasn’t so interested in the points. But the idea intrigued me.
So I tried to make use of Foursquare. Whenever I went somewhere I’d try to check in. This is where the problems started. The Foursquare iPhone app, is horrible. It doesn’t do one of the things it should do, search for locations based on your current GPS or cell signal location. If I’m in my home town of Katy and do a search for Jason’s Deli (because that’s where I am with my family), it should find the Jason’s Deli on Mason Road. Nope, it pulls up the Jason’s Deli location that’s in downtown Houston, 27 miles away from where I’m at. In internet meme terms, this is known as “FAIL” (ie broken).
Enter Gowalla. Gowalla is similar to Foursquare in that it is a location based social network with a game element. You can get points for visiting certain places and there are “trips” you can take that involve checking in at multiple locations. Successfully completing a trip earns you points.
But Gowalla does something that Foursquare can’t seem to do (at least for me). When I go to check in, it pulls up surrounding spots based on my GPS or cell signal location. In other words, it actually uses my location to determine where I might be. I have found one bug (but I haven’t check to see if its fixed in the latest version). That bug is if I check in from inside a building (no GPS signal), if the cell tower it’s getting my location from is not on top of the building I’m in, then it won’ t let me check in, it tells me that I’m not actually at that location. While I understand what the point of this is, there should be some leeway to say if you’re within a certain radius, allow the check in.
But that’s not all that Gowalla handles better. If you try to check in at a place that isn’t in their list, you can add a new place to the GPS coordinates for where you are at. In Foursquare, you need to have the address of where you are at (very annoying). You simply type the name of the place, assign it a category and it adds the location to Gowalla’s database and then you can check in there.
In the end, I have chosen to go with Gowalla over Foursquare. There are some elements of Foursquare that are fun and it definitely is more fun for people that go out all the time. But the lack of ability to check in based on my location and needing to know the address to add a new place is a huge hindrance for me. Gowalla suits my lifestyle a lot better and to me their iPhone app is just flat out better. Foursquare is riding Dodgeball coat tails (the same people are behind both services), but it needs to get its act together when it comes to its iPhone app because for a location based service it kind of stinks.
My Gowalla Profile: mkoby