It’s no secret that SMS checkins are the redheaded stepchild of the foursquare world, a bygone relic of the pre-smartphone, pre-GPS Dodgeball days. For at least the past two weeks, in fact, SMS checkins haven’t worked at all. A new solution from Dotgo, however, makes SMS checkins simple and easy â€” and it actually works.
With Dotgo, you can see your friends’ recent checkins, nearby tips and todos and, most importantly, search for venues to check in to. It’s all done by replying to the SMS prompts with numbers and an occasional search term.
The ability to search for venues â€” in your current city or a different one â€” is where Dotgo absolutely smokes foursquare’s SMS checkins. To check in with foursquare’s official SMS service you sent a text to 50500 that read “@ Dairy Queen.” It worked relatively well if there was only one venue in town with that name and you typed it exactly as it appeared in the foursquare system. Otherwise you could end up checked in to the wrong venue (imagine trying to check in to the proper Starbucks) or with a grayed-out, locationless checkin on the foursquare site.Â God forbid if you’d travelled to a different city since your last foursquare checkin; there was no way to change cities.
Dotgo is much more robust, letting you search for venues just as you would from within the foursquare app. It returns a list of nearby venues matching what you typed and offers to search a different city if you’ve switched towns since your last checkin. You simply choose a number from the list to check in.
Once you’ve found the proper venue, Dotgo returns the same information you’d find on the foursquare venue screen, including how many people are there, who the mayor is and an option to browse the tips. You can check in publicly or privately (“off the grid” in foursquare parlance) or share your checkin with Facebook or Twitter. You can add a shout to any checkin, as well. The confirmation even includes the name of the current mayor and how many points you earned, just like the regular foursquare app.
To link your account, visit Dotgo’s foursquare page and authorize your foursquare account for access through Dotgo. You’ll receive a PIN that you send via SMS to DOTCOM (368266) in the format “foursquare PIN.” From then on, your phone will be linked to foursquare. When you text “foursquare” to the same number you’ll get back the “home” menu of options.
You’ll want to have unlimited text messages on your cell phone if you try this. Navigating through the menus takes a lot of texts, but it’s really the only way to provide such rich functionality in an SMS-based form.
Even with my iPhone, I plan to use this when I fall into the AT&T abyss at football games, where the only connection with the outside world is SMS.
More importantly, though, this opens up foursquare to a whole new market which has previously been untapped. As a smartphone user, I often forgot that there are phones that don’t get the full internet, but there are. And there are lots of them.Â Roughly 75% of cell phone users are on non-smartphones, the vast majority of those phones are capable of text messaging, though.
Having a legitimate â€” working â€” SMS checkin solution opens up foursquare to those users who previously had no other way to use it. It may be a little clunkier than the glitzy smartphone apps, but it works exactly as advertised.
What do you think of Dotgo’s SMS checkin solution for foursquare? Could it open doors for foursquare among non-smartphone users?