Foursquare has few rules, but â€” as we learned last week when they began allowing venues to oust mayors they believe are cheating â€” one is that drive by checkins are not allowed. New free auto-checkin app Mayor Maker apparently missed the memo, because by default it will check you in to venues you’re merely driving past without any notification. Luckily, there’s a way to turn that off and make the app truly useful.
Mayor Maker’s creators bill it as the “World’s First App for Automatically Checking in and out of Foursquare!” Clearly it’s not the first to allow automatic checkins, with Future Checkin and Checkmate already available. The interesting feature it adds to the crowded automatic checkin field is the automatic checkout, which sends a shout that you’ve left the venue, removing you from the “Who’s Here” list.
Unfortunately the automatic checkin is Mayor Maker’s biggest selling point â€” and it’s biggest problem. It will only check you in automatically at venues you’ve listed as favorites, but venues where you’re already the mayor are automatically added to that list when you first sign in to the app.Â On one test run I made with the app, I found that I was automatically checked in to two of them just by driving past, even after dialing down the default checkin radius from 300 feet to 150 feet, it’s lowest setting.
Unfortunately, there is no option to make sure you’ve actually been in a venue for a period of time before automatically checking you in. On top of that, there’s no notification that you’ve been checked in. I only learned about it after viewing my foursquare history when I returned home.
The good news is that there’s an option to be prompted to check in when you visit your favorite venues. A notification pops up on your phone with a “check in” button that automatically takes you to the checkin screen, allowing you to shout and post to Facebook and Twitter. It’s a time-saver over opening the foursquare app, finding the venue and checking in. Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley has said this may be coming to future versions of the foursquare app.
Mayor Maker’s creators say it’s been “optimized to preserve battery life while running in background of iPhone 4.0.” It does, in fact, seem to eat far less battery than the other apps in its field.
Judging by Crowley’s test in the NYC Marathon, Mayor Maker may have some issues with reliability â€” even if you really want to check in to a location. Crowley set up Mayor Maker to automatically check him in at each mile marker during the race. Over the 26.2 mile course, he was automatically checked in to just 12 of the mile markers. Perhaps his was an extreme test case, but it didn’t bode well for Mayor Maker’s automatic checkin feature.
For those of us who try to play foursquare fairly, drive by checkins simply aren’t allowed, yet it seems that’s what Mayor Maker was built to do by default. Turning that off, however, makes it in to a very useful app. The prompted checkins are a nice timesaver and the check out function is something many users have been clamoring for â€” making it automatic is even better.
Mayor Maker is available for free in the iPhone app store. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments.