NEW YORK (MainStreet) Most smartphone users who have experienced the Foursquare app know it simply as a means to "check-in" to their current locations. Because of this iconic feature, users were so immersed in tracking where other users were hanging out that they were unaware of Foursquare's ability to do much more. Since many of its other features, such as the ability to search and explore new places to visit, were being unknowingly overlooked, Foursquare decided to embrace change. CEO Dennis Crowley and the rest of the Foursquare team has since remodeled the entire app, including developing somewhat of a "sister" app called Swarm, in order to highlight all of the features that it has to offer.
The new Foursquare, which launched on August 6, is no longer just a place to check in. In fact, the "check-in" feature is now primarily available on Swarm, which went live on May 16.
Foursquare is now intended solely as a means of exploration. According to the Foursquare blog, the app "learns what you like and leads you to places you'll love." The post continues to tout the benefits of using the new app by stating the following: "The new Foursquare frees you from having to read long, random reviews, wondering if those people share your tastes. With Foursquare, find things based on your tastes, the places you like, and the friends and experts you trust most."
While the users' check-in histories and lists of friends carry over from the old Foursquare to the new Foursquare, users can now explore new places with their friends instead of just browsing check-ins.
After downloading or updating the app, users will immediately notice the brand new logo. Out with the old turquoise-green branding and in with the fresh, hip hot pinks and royal blues. While the old logo highlighted the app's check-in feature with the checkmark, the new logo holds an idea completely different. Foursquare explains the concept behind the new logo in a blog post: "We designed it to be a mix of map pin and superhero emblem. We've always thought of Foursquare as giving you superpowers to explore your city, and our new logo reflects that vision."
When the app is first opened, users are prompted to turn on their phone's location services. Location services assist the app in pinpointing the user's current location, therefore making it easier to find the most local hot spots. The app then provides a list of suggestions, such as "coffee," "breweries," "cozy spots," or even "bacon," thus prompting the user to choose the options that he or she likes. This essentially "teaches" the app about the user's specific taste and desired criteria. From that point, users can search for anything from breakfast and lunch to shopping and nightlife within the set mile radius of his location.
Curious as to how Foursquare can help save money? For those looking for bargains while exploring about town, Foursquare's browsing feature also includes a discount section. On the main page of the app, there is a search bar that reads "Search Foursquare." When the search bar is clicked, a list of different options appears. Along with options such as "Best Nearby" and "Shopping," there is "Offering a Special." The "Offering a Special" option brings up a list of different local spots that are offering some kind of deal or discount. Whether the deal is 15% off the total bill at the local pizzeria, or $1 off a packet of lotion at the nearest tanning salon, users can easily cash in on discounts that are exclusive to those on Foursquare and Swarm just by checking in to the specified location.
If a user is looking for something in particular and it does not appear on the list of places under "Offering a Special," he or she can simply type key words pertaining to that certain thing into the search bar. For example, users can type in "free yoga" or "free movie" and find an outdoor yoga session or movie showing in a park, or they can search "free haircut" to find a free cut and blowout at a beauty school or even a promotional event at a big-name salon. "Free wifi" can be searched if a user is in need of Internet. While all of the results are based around what is available near the user's current location, Foursquare's search engine makes it quite simple to search and find free and discounted events and items.
When a user stumbles upon a suggested place that seems to suit his needs, the option exists to read other users' comments and reviews on the place. Users can provide a numerical grade on how well they enjoyed the places they visited and can also write in comments, reviews, or tips pertaining to the experience. This is another great way to pick up on money-saving ideas since many users will post current coupons they used or write about discounts that places are offering. Other common tips and reviews include various meal suggestions at different restaurants, whether or not a happy hour is worth a visit, how well a retail store is stocked or how rude a customer service department may or may not be.
While some of the most popular smartphone apps relate to social networking and media, there are few apps that combine the social aspect with local exploration tips and money-saving opportunities. With the new Foursquare, it is now possible to experience all of those things inside one app.
--Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet