Foursquare lets you view your friends’ opinions on various stores, restaurants, and other types of attractions. Its main function is to help you find new and exciting places to visit, and to discover what your friends think about them. This app takes the popular check-in feature of Facebook and brings it to a whole new level.
The most well-known feature of Foursquare is how it lets you earn points and badges for checking in and posting comments. This, in turn, can lead to discounts offered exclusively to Foursquare users. It also has the ability to determine which one of your friends are near you or doing similar things, making it a perfect tool for keeping in touch with your friends and what they are doing.
On the surface, Foursquare behaves like any other check-in service. When you click “Check In” you are given a list of nearby places based on your GPS location, and then select the appropriate one. You can set up Foursquare to automatically post your check-ins to your Facebook account, and your friends can also be notified when you check-in and have the option to comment on it.
Main Attraction Screen
When you tap an attraction, you are presented with several options other than the obvious check-in function. In the top right corner, there is a share button that allows you to manually share the attraction using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other different social methods. You can also leave a tip about an attraction: from how good the food is, to how clean the bathrooms are. By clicking on the camera icon, you are able to add a picture of the attraction if there isn’t one already. Finally, you can save the place to a list for future reference.
This page also shows which lists you have added the attraction to, and all of the social aspects related to the attraction: how many people are currently there and whether any of your friends are among them. As an added convenience, all of the tips anyone has posted will also be displayed, along with the current “mayor” of the attraction (more on this later).
Exploring New Places
Foursquare provides several different ways to discover attractions in your area. This first and most obvious way is by looking at where your friends have checked in recently; Foursquare knows this and presents you with that information right when you launch the application. On the Friends screen, you can see which attractions your friends are currently at, and any photos and comments they have added about the attractions.
This is the Friends screen.
If nothing exciting jumps out at you in the Friends screen, you can click on the Explore tab to try to find other places you may like. This tab presents lists of attractions sorted by category, and is where two really big features of Foursquare come into play.
The Explore tab.
The Top Picks screen is a great feature that will show you the most popular places based on your GPS location. This is a great tool if you are in an unfamiliar place and looking for a good place to eat or a popular store to shop at.
The Top Picks screen
There’s one particular item on the Explore list that is by far the most valuable feature of Foursquare and the reason Foursquare is so far ahead of its competitors: the Specials category, which lists special offers that are exclusive to Foursquare users.
The deals are usually sponsored by third party providers such as American Express or Visa; this is because you must be affiliated with the sponsor in order to receive the special. For example, a local diner might provide a $5 coupon if you check in with Foursquare and pay with your AmEx card. It is a great way to save a little money at your favorite attractions. (And a great way to get users into the habit of checking in on Foursquare, no doubt – Ed.)
Foursquare’s primary features lie in how it ties in with your social life. You can choose to have it interact directly with your Facebook or Twitter, but it also has some interesting capabilities that allow you to communicate and even collaborate with your friends on places you may want to visit. Having a central place to blend your friends with your favorite attractions is the bread and butter of Foursquare
Lists are a great way to organize the attractions you like into different categories. This works especially well when you want to keep track of attractions you want to go to, or when you want a list of restaurants that serve a specific kind of food.
The best feature of these lists is that you can share them with friends. This means that you can get a group of friends all working on the same list, which can result in a great collaboration. This makes it incredibly easy to keep socializing with your friends while keeping the location fresh.
An example of a list
Badges are an interesting way to track your progress and activity on Foursquare. They are typically earned by checking into various venues. In some cases, badges can only be earned in specific cities. However, if you earn a badge, it stays with you no matter which city you are in.
Badges are generally earned when you hit certain milestones. For example, you get your first badge when you make your first check-in. You will also earn a badge when you check in to a venue that is a significant distance from where you typically check in. You can also earn a badge by completing a task instead of checking in – for an extreme example, astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock unlocked the NASA Explorer badge by checking into Foursquare from the International Space Station.
The Badges screen
Foursquare users the title ‘mayor’ for somebody who checks-into a place more frequently than others. To become a mayor, you must have checked in to a venue more times than anybody else within a 60 day period. In addition to this, you must also have a visible account photo in order to claim mayorship.
Becoming mayor of a specific place will post your picture on the front page of that venue stating that you are indeed the mayor. The only people who are ineligible to become mayor are owners and employees of the venues. Aside from the digital reputation boost, some attractions provide special discounts and deals to those who are crowned mayor.
Foursquare is an interesting player in a previously unexplored community. Facebook uses basic check-in functionality, but there is no check-in service out there that is as polished and heavily featured as Foursquare is: Foursquare can almost be considered its own ecosystem.
Foursquare’s extra services like badges and mayorships are really what set it apart. It can almost be considered a form of entertainment rather than a social aid; collecting extras and finding hidden deals in places you walk by on a daily basis can provide hours of entertainment. Foursquare has truly perfected the art of checking in and has achieved seamless integration into a socially-dominated world.