With South by Southwest about to begin, location base services on various mobile platforms are about to be tested to their fullest. If you are going to SXSW, you may find yourself using one of these applications. The two that seem to be the most popular right now are Gowalla and Foursquare. Both have also done recent updates in the last couple of day, so if you haven’t updated do so. Each has their strengths and weakness.
The first difference that I noticed was Gowalla allows you to post and view pictures of a location, that other users have posted. With Foursquare there are no pictures, but people do leave tips. These are great if you are going somewhere new and want to learn more about it before you go. You can also check nearby tweets and see what is happening around you with Foursquare. Foursquare allows you to get pings from your friends if they are nearby. I didn’t see any way to ping someone if they are nearby on Gowalla I also noticed that on Foursquare you can text, call, email, send a tweet or facebook connect to a friend as long as they included that information in their profile when they signed up. On Gowalla you can only post a comment or tweet someone. Foursquare also allows you to mark a place as closed or incorrectly placed. I like this option, I hate looking forward to going somewhere only to get there and find its no longer in business. I didn’t see anything in Gowalla that allowed you to do that. Both apps give out badges or stamps for meeting certain goals. I do like the Trip activity on Gowalla, the idea is they suggest places to go in an area or city and then you mark them off as you go, sort of like a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, their idea of nearby seems to be anything within a 1,000 miles. Gowalla also offers challenges, like check into X number of tech startups or check in at ten or more coffee shops are just some examples. Foursquare doesn’t have anything like this.
Since they are both free I actually recommend downloading both and trying them out. Most likely you will end up using the same application your friends are using. Part of the fun is to see what your friends are doing and compete with them in getting stamps or badges. The one thing you need to be aware of is that when you checkin with either of these apps you are giving out your location to the world. I did notice by accident that Foursquares allows you to check in somewhere even if you are not there. Unless you publishing your location to meet people, I would use this option at least some of the time. Unfortunately it looks like Gowalla only allows you to check in if you are at the location. I believe Gowalla does need to look into allowing you to check in somewhere even after you leave the location. Before you use one of these applications you should be aware of the risk. If you Google location apps and security you will find a ton of articles on the subject. Despite this caveat, if you have a mobile smart phone I would recommend downloading and trying out these applications.