I recently became the owner of a hand-me-down iPad thanks to my wife’s purchase of an iPad 2. Up to that point, I’d never had a reason to look at any of the different foursquare apps for the iPad. “Why the heck would anyone want to use that to check in when they have a perfectly good phone that does the same thing?” I thought.
It wasn’t until I used Gowalla’s excellent iPad app that I really got to thinking about the possibilities for foursquare on a tablet. I imagined using the iPad to browse for recommended nearby venues (thanks to foursquare Explore), see their tips and add things to my foursquare to-do list. It would make for an incredibly handy travel companion, since the iPad is now my primary computer when I’m on the road.
In looking at the current state of foursquare apps for the iPad I was, to say the least, underwhelmed. Foursquare doesn’t have their own app (beyond the standard iPhone app, which isn’t well suited for the iPad’s larger display) for iPad, so third-party companies have built apps to try to plug the gap. They all attempt to fill different niches and are each fairly limited in scope. Sadly, none of them are a very good way to interact with your foursquare account or friends.
Let’s take a look at the five contenders.
TwentyThree (free) focuses mainly on viewing your friends’ locations. You can add multiple foursquare, Gowalla or Twitter accounts and see your friends on the map. More recent checkins show as green pins, while older ones turn purple and then red. Tapping a pin shows the name of the pin, but the actual location isn’t revealed until you tap the arrow button.
It does offer the ability to check in â€” to multiple accounts, no less â€” but for some reason the list seems limited to only a few venues. At my office it shows two venues, compared to the 25 or so that foursquare returns.
TwentyThree does a passable job of showing your friends’ locations and checking in, but that’s the limit of its capabilities. There are no other options for interacting with your foursquare account or nearby venues.
In contrast to TwentyThree, FourSite (free/ad supported or $.99) is focused on browsing nearby venues. Each venues’ category icon is displayed on the map. Tapping an icon brings up the name of the venue, its address and a link to its Twitter feed. You can also check in â€” using a pop-up view of foursquare’s dismal mobile site. The developers say that adding native checkins is one of their top priorities.
One feature of FourSite that does stand out is the ability to see Google’s Street View imagery of each location. I’m not sure, though, what purpose it really serves.
In their app description, the developers describe FourSite as a tool for foursquare superusers, but without a link to editing pages, flagging features, or even the venue ID, it has very little value for that purpose. In the end,Â FourSite offers no interaction with your friends, and once you’ve seen the venue on the map, there’s little else you can do with it.
Foursquare Venue Map
Foursquare Venue Map (free/ad supported) is very similar to FourSite; nearby venues appear on a map with their category icons. There’s no way to check in, but tapping a venue on the map takes you to its page on the foursquare site, which could actually make it a useful tool for superusers.
Locc.us (free) is one of the only apps that lets you see where your friends are and search nearby venues and check in. The interface leaves a lot to be desired, however. Searching for locations is done through a submenu (that also aims to show nearby Flickr photos, Wikipedia articles, tweets, etc.). After numerous tries, I couldn’t get it to list my office among the nearby venues, despite it appearing in my favorites on foursquare.
Of the five, Dash Four ($1.99) is the app that attempts to do the most â€” but does it in the least useful way possible. You can see a map of your friends most recent checkins, but you have no way of knowing if they were made a minute ago or a week ago. Nearby venues appear on a map, but there’s no way to even tell what category they’re in or if there are any tips. I can’t tell if the Gilligan’s I just clicked on is a bar, a house or a boat. You can, at least, check in there if you’re able to find the right venue.
Needless to say, after spending $3 (wiping out any chance of a profit from About Foursquare this month) and several hours checking out all the apps, I’m really not pleased with any of them. There’s not one app that does everything it should do, let along everything I want it to do.
Gowalla gets it right
I don’t often mention Gowalla on this site, but I’m a big fan of a lot of the things they do. Their iPad app has only served to increase that. It’s a shining example of what location-based services can do on the tablet format.
With Gowalla’s iPad app, you can:
- Browse nearby spots (complete with category icons) and check in
- See the places your friends have checked in (with their profile photos, instead of just random pins on a map), add comments and view their photos
- Check out nearby trips
- View and manage your passport, including stamps, pins and virtual items
In true Gowalla style, the interface is beautiful and useful. The app does just about everything you can do on the Gowalla website andÂ in the app, just in a tablet optimized format.
What foursquare could be doing
A native foursquare app for the iPad (or I’d be happy to pay for a quality one built by a third party) should, of course, include all the options offered by Gowalla. Superuser functions like editing address, marking duplicates and changing categories would be nice, but aren’t really necessary.
As I said earlier, it should also include foursquare Explore to see the venues foursquare recommends nearby. It would be nice to have a nice, larger browser, where I could turn those recommended venues and popular tips into to-dos and create my own to-dos. This would make it the perfect app for travelers, allowing them to browse nearby attractions from the comfort of their hotel rooms and add their favorites to the foursquare iPhone app, where they’d be reminded of them while they’re out and about.
Which of the above apps do you use? Should foursquare create their own iPad app? If they do, what features should they offer?