This post is by Matthew Latkiewicz, managing editor for Zengage, Zendesk’s blog about customer service 2.0.
Location, location, location — as true in the world of mobile applications as it is in real estate. It seems as if every app you download to your phone now tells you that it would like to know your location. If you are like me, you automatically click OK. I now rely regularly on Google Maps and Yelp; and I’ve started checking in to Facebook and Foursquare — though I do it through Gowalla.
These apps represent the big names in location aware apps, as well as the big trends:
- Figuring out where you are
- Telling other people where you are
- Finding great restaurants, shop, and other interesting venues near you
But what else is there? Surely the places we go and the locations in which we find ourselves offer more than just food and friends. I went looking for some other location aware mobile apps to see what else my phone could do if I let it know my location.
Messaging: Glympse –There’s telling your friends where you are, and then there is telling your friends where you are. Glympse allows you to show other people your exact location and then track you on a map for a set amount of time. In some ways, Glympse is a warm and fuzzy version of Orwell’s Big Brother. You have a tracking device on you but, unlike in Orwell’s version, you are the one in total control. Let’s say you are going to be late for dinner. Instead of texting your family that “you’ll be home soon”, you can prove it — with a map. Platforms: Web, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7
Productivity: Task Ave — One of the main things I use my phone for is my to-do list. I’ve got a long list of things I could be doing, picking up or checking out. It’s great to always have it with me, but of course it doesn’t really help if I forget to check it. Task Ave. wants to remind you about your to-do list by taking a location based approach to productivity. The idea is straight out of David Allen’s GTD system: Certain things you can only do in certain places (or, in certain “contexts” for you GTD nerds). With Task Ave. you can assign to-do items to spots on a map. Want to remember to pick up milk when you are out today? Drop a reminder on your grocery store; when you get near the store, Task Ave pushes out a reminder: “Hey, you are near the place where you can get milk!” Platforms: iPhone
Creativity: Intersect — I’m not a New Yorker, but whenever I’m there, it’s always fun to imagine the stories that have taken place there. Each corner, building, restaurant has seen more than its share of human drama. Intersect gives us the opportunity to make those stories available to each other. Whether you are in New York or New Mexico, you can attach a story to your location on the map; as well as see the other stories which have been dropped there. I expect to see a lot more of this sort of location aware narratives, stories and art in the near future. Platforms: Web, iPhone
Adventure/Gaming: SCVNGR — Foursquare popularized the idea of game mechanics with location aware services. The more you check in, the more virtual rewards you reap. SCVNGR (who are taking the web 2.0 no vowel thing very srsly) ups the gamesmanship of checking in by giving you little ‘challenges’ wherever you are – take a picture of your food, for instance; or high five the barista. You win points for these things; points lead to rewards. It could be just the way to spice up your visit to the local diner, but make sure everyone you’re with is on board. You thought checking-in was annoying to your non-techie friends? Bugging them about earning points by making a sculpture out of your food might push them over the edge. Platforms: iPhone, Android
Discovery: Abandoned There’s a whole genre of location aware services I like to call the “what should I do now?” apps. They are travel apps for those of us who don’t like planning, or are looking for spontaneity in our own towns. You launch them and they basically give you a list of things around you. Well, Abandoned might take the cake for most bizarrely specific recommendations. As they write on the iTunes store: “Explore modern day ruins from empty mental asylums to shipwrecks under the Great Lakes. Discover the history and location of dead amusement parks, overgrown hospitals, forgotten hotels and creepy ghost towns.” Yep, launch Abandoned and it will show all the abandoned structures around you, along with photos and a community of other abandoned building enthusiasts. Finally, a reason to use the iPhone flashlight app. Platform: iPhone.
By some estimates there are now more than 6,000 location-aware application available for the iPhone, along with about 900 available for Android devices. But we are still in the early days of seeing just what we’ll be able to do with those apps and how we’ll be able to use them to connect with each other.
What’s your favorite location aware app?
Image Credit: Yakobchuk, via iStock Photo