Location based iPhone app mini review; Brightkite vs Foursquare vs Whrrl & what’s next?

September 3, 2009

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For those of you who follow me on Twitter know what I’m a huge Brightkite fan. I’ve been using the service since it launched and was in private beta. I’m not sure what came next Whrrl or Loopt but when they were launched I decided to give them a try also but neither stuck with me like Brightkite as I found Loopt to be very “spammy” by sending out unwanted messages to my contacts and Whrrl web and mobile app user interface wasn’t as easy to navigate or understand as Brighkite at the time. This was around mid year 2008. Since then a lot has changed for Loopt and Whrrl as for usability and functions but Brightkite seems to have stayed with their core features and design.

foursquare

New to the location based iPhone app scene is foursquare, which was launched in March of this year during SXSW. Foursquare which seem to be a dodgeball.com spin-off focuses on “ways to explore a city.” allowing “checkins” to various locations in which the more you check-in, the more badges you’re able to unlock. Foursquare is limited to major US cities at the moment but last week I was able to travel to NY and have the opportunity to “play” foursquare. Just like other location based apps foursquare is a social network and has both Twitter and Facebook integration. Unlike brightkite or Whrrl foursquare allows only text based updates and where the other two allow you to post photos. Either way, foursquare seems to have caught the attention of geeks early adopter world, but why? A few things foursquare does over the other location based apps that make users stick is the game mentality of the service. The more you check-in at various locations the more badges you unlock. Foursquare also awards it users by giving them “mayor” badges at locations they visit more frequently than others. Another game like feature is the city leaderboard that’s updated by the day to show the person with the most check-ins.

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As with all location based apps there’s always the security concern as sharing to much information. Something I found out while hanging with Brett Petersel in NY is that if you’re friends with someone then you can send them a direct SMS text message from the app allowing users to see your mobile number. We think you have to be friends for that to happen if not that’s a major security flaw.

Brightkite

Still while in NY I used contintued to use Brightkite to check-in add new friends and post photos as it’s still my favorite location based service. A few features that brightkite has over foursquare is the ability to upload photos and have them post to flickr and Facebook. Brightkite’s focus is to have conversations around a location.

whrrl
As for Whrrl, I used it a couple times at during my NYC trip but between trying to check-in with foursquare and brightkite I often didn’t check-in as I think about using Whrrl more at conferences and events vs random day to day check-ins but I’m continue to evaluate my usage of the service. Whrrl also has done a great job of listening to it users about usability and features. The Whrrl iPhone app version 2.0 and website are a vast improvement over the service initial launch.

Your Social Compass | Loopt
When it comes to Loopt, I haven’t used the service enough to really evaluate it and I’m not sure if I ever will. (sorry guys).

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post that Kipp Bodnar and I co-wrote for Louis Gray about the business impact of using brightkite but it also apples to other location based services.

Business Impact of using location based apps

As more businesses are using social media to reach new customers or engage with existing ones online, the business impact of using location-based services can be huge for companies looking to reach targeted local users. We’re already seeing companies using twitter for coupons or promotions and that’s great but what if you wanted to reach people who you knew that visited your company previously or worked near by. With Brightkite you can easily do location based advertising by the block, or city and go beyond advertising to understand the real-word referrers that normally send people to your business.

What’s next?
As for what’s next in the location based apps battle, my guess is augmented reality. Already I’ve seen a brightkite augmented reality mashup and the upgraded yelp iPhone app has augmented reality built-in too. My guess we’ll see other web based apps start to use location based services for marking and building niche communities by location. The question is will they partner with an existing service like Brightkite, Whrrl and foursquare.. only time will tell. Also I think we’ll start seeing the ability to upload video to both Brightkite and Whrrl from the iPhone (I hope).

By the way, no I didn’t go to NY just to play foursqare :)
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What is your favorite iPhone location based app and how do you use it?

Wayne Sutton

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Wayne Sutton is a serial entrepreneur and general partner at BUILDUP.vc. Wayne has over 14 years experience in technology, design and business development. Wayne was recently recognized as one of the Silicon Valley 100 coolest people in tech, one of the 52 hottest new stars in Silicon Valley, one of the 46 Most Important African-Americans In Technology by Business Insider and one of the Top 100 most influential black people on social media in 2014.