A couple of years ago, it seemed like a ridiculous idea to let other people know where you exactly are. Privacy and security were paramount concerns. Tune in today, and not only is everyone quite happy to broadcast their location but also to take a peek at where others are visiting. Thanks to this trend, we now have a bunch location based startups (LBS) with really crazy valuations.
Foursquare and Gowalla stand out in the crowd of LBS apps. And, even though it’s a distant second to Foursquare in the LBS game, Gowalla is a compelling alternative that has its own strong suits. After the break let us take a look at how helpful the app really is.
A lot of us probably won’t need an introduction about Gowalla. And for those who have never heard of the app (I don’t blame you, Foursquare has creamed them!), Gowalla helps you connect with friends from Facebook and Twitter to share where you’re going. Besides that, when you go out, you can discover cool new destinations, share your photos, recommendations and trips with friends. And if you are in a mood to try out something new, the app will suggest locations of interest based on your location too!
Ease of Use
Now that almost all native apps have become layered and complex, it is imperative that we have to sign up for an account. Thankfully, Gowalla has the option to sign in with your existing Facebook account. Like every other responsible app maker out there, the sign in and integration happens via OAuth. For those still concerned about privacy, an option to sign up using their conventional form is available as well.
As soon as you sign in, an overlay with social preferences show up. Despite the realistic design of the overlay, the checkmarks aren’t icons but are check boxes. So make sure that you uncheck them before sending a mass mail to all your contacts.
Since I have used the Gowalla iOS app before, I could immediately spot the completely different user interface. The Android app sports a clean and minimal user interface that is very appealing to the eyes. I am not a fan of the tabs in the iOS counterpart and am happy that they are absent in this version. However, the lack of icons at the bottom of the app makes navigation a bit tougher than usual.
Profile & Check in Screens
I was delighted to see that all my checkins and badges from my iOS app have been retained. Displaying the profile page immediately after launching the app is a great choice as well.
You can check in by clicking on the Where Are You? button sitting right in the center. This brings up the exact location that app ascertains you currently are in; if you find it to be inaccurate, tap on it to find a bunch of places in the vicinity. Still unable to find the location you are in? Try searching for it and then pick it from the results.
Nearby Locations and Search
Then you have got about 96 (why not 100?) characters to comment on the checkin. You can attach a photo to the comment as well, but the app doesn’t allow you to upload images from the gallery and opens up the camera app instead.
Sharing and Checkin receipt
The comment you write stays in Gowalla’s database and is attached to the location. If you wish to alert your friends of your cool new discovery, tap the Sharing icon. From this screen you can broadcast your presence across all popular social networks. And yes, you can share this on Foursquare too!
Discovery and Suggestions
Immediately after the checkin, a really cool looking receipt is generated. In this receipt, you will learn about the significance of the location (in addition to celebrity sightings).
Discovery & Activity Screens
Once I got past the receipt, I was disappointed to see the tabbed layout, but it isn’t as cumbersome as the iOS app. Head over to the Featured Section to see the official recommendations from Gowalla and if they have a partnership with the business, you can avail special discounts too.
The Nearby screen offers a whole lot of suggestions as well. If you access a suggested listing, you will be able to see the images uploaded by other Gowalla users and their comments. To view all images and opinions visit the Activity screen. From here, all chronological comments can be tracked. Liked a suggestion or place? Save it in the Bookmarks section. That way, you can come back to watch the activity at your favorite destinations in just a few swipes.
The Trips section of the app is another notable addition. In this section, a list of suggested adventures and locations are listed for a particular destination. For example, if you are touring Bangkok, take advantage of the I Love Bangkok trip and make it a point to visit the ten awesome locations that Gowalla suggests. Once you complete a trip, you get a swanky badge too. It’s a really brilliant feature and I would love to see more trips from across the globe.
Personally, I started using Gowalla and Fousquare at the same time. So when I am at a cool location, I used to check in using both the apps (crazy, I know). But finally I stuck only with Gowalla for a few months thanks to the bullock cart checkin speed of the Foursquare app. But after a few weeks time, I completely lost interest in this checking-in game altogether. If you, like me, and tired of the checkin game, you can use Gowalla as your social travel guide instead.