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Archive for May, 2014

Raise Your Emoji: Swarm from Foursquare is here

by on May.15, 2014, under Location-Based Services

Swarm by Foursquare
Swarm (just now available on the App Store), the new dedicated check-in app from Foursquare, has finally arrived. It’s a solid replacement for checking in using Foursquare. In addition, Swarm brings back several key features that Foursquare had removed from it’s core app as the Foursquare app moved to be more and more discovery oriented (versus checking in). Here are some of the major features that I’m most excited about:

1. Mention friends in a check-in without checking them in – Foursquare quietly removed this feature last year, leaving only the ability to mark a friend as “checked-in” with you. This meant that you could no longer mention a friend in a check-in who was not actually with you and instead had to tag them in the comments area. This reduced the community “feel” of Foursquare. People could no longer connect with each other by simply mentioning each other in a check-in text. Swarm has brought this feature back. Simply mention a friend in the check-in and then tap on their picture in the bottom to toggle whether they are being marked as a checked in with you or just being mentioned in the check-in.

2. The return of the feed – Another major feature that Foursquare removed last year was the feed. This was a feature that was introduced many versions ago and enabled you to see a scrolling feed of your friend’s check-ins as they were made instead of just where your friends were last. This brought the Foursquare community even closer. With the feed, friends can watch each other’s days progress and see checkins that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Foursquare has brought this feature back with Swarm.

3. Plans – There used to be an app called Forecast that integrated with Foursquare and let you share what your plans were with your friends. Friends could mark that they were interested in joining you for those plans and it was all integrated with Foursquare venues and check-ins. I used it regularly and found it to be very useful. Unfortunately that app shut down and nothing ever rose to the occasion to take it’s place- until now. Swarm delivers what I feel is the spiritual successor to Forecast: a feature called Plans With plans you are able to post a note saying that you plan to do something (presumably tied to your current location) and your friends can say that they’d like to join you. You’re able to tag venues to your plan (type the @ symbol and then type the name of the venue- only venues nearby will show up in the search results though) and tag friends as well (essentially inviting them to join you). I can’t wait to try this out with friends and see how this feature evolves.

4. Location-based sort of friend’s list – Over the years, Foursquare has struggled with the best way to display what your friends are doing near you while also displaying what you friends around the world are doing. With Swarm, Foursquare has finally nailed it. Swarm’s home screen shows your friends who have recently checked in and sorts them by how close they are based on their last location share- making it very easy to see where all of your friends are no matter where they are in the world. It also displays stickers and Emoji (more on that later) as well as whether there are comments or likes a friend’s most recent checkin. This is a welcome addition and when combined with the feed I feel that this enables you to stay more closely in touch with more people than before. Plus there is a hidden search feature on the home screen that you can access by scrolling the list down. You can now search for a specific friend in case you have a very long friend list or to see a friend’s last location in case they haven’t checked-in in a while.

5. Stickers – Gone are badges. May they rest in peace. All of your old badges are still accessible but Foursquare is no longer awarding new ones. Instead Swarm has introduced stickers. These are decorations that you can add to your profile icon when you check in. The sticker is then displayed on your avatar on the homepage as well as in the feed. Foursquare has said that you will be able to unlock stickers, similar to unlocking badges, based on certain situations. I feel that this is a great addition to the check-in experience and brings some fun back to checking in.

6. Emoji – Foursquare has fully embraced Emoji with Swarm. Now with Swarm if you add emoji to a checkin text the Emoji will display on your avatar like a sticker. Note that if you have a sticker selected with your check-in that the sticker will override the emoji. This feature brings another layer of fun to checking in and I feel that it will make emoji even more popular.

7. Complete data transfer PLUS check-in search – Even though this is a new app, Foursquare has brought forward all of your old data. In addition, they have added the ability to search your check-in data for the first time. Just tap your profile icon and then use the search box at the top of your check-in history to find out if you’ve been somewhere before and when you were there.

8. Other awesome – Foursquare is also keeping features like sharing insights after a check-in, the ability to comment and “like” a check-in, the ability to share check-ins on Twitter and Facebook and other core basic features. Other major features they’ve introduced include Neighborhood Sharing (the option to automatically share which town you are currently in) as well as the ability for mayorships to be awarded based on you checking in at a place more often then your friends (versus only one mayor that is awarded to the person who checks in the most overall, friends or no). Personally I’d prefer to see BOTH an overall mayor AND a “best of your friends” mayor. I am excited that mayorships are still around in some form and I’m happy to know I can still compete with my friends to see who has checked in somewhere the most. Neighborhood Sharing I’m taking a wait and see approach. I think it has a lot of potential because it will enable friends to passively share their location, keeping people more closely in touch automatically. In addition, by choosing to only identify which town or city you are in, Foursquare seems to have finally solved the challenge that automatic checkins have always posed, which was determining what the right location was to automatically check the user into.

Wrapping things up, yes- there are no more points (SADFACE). There are no more check-in specials (this one I’m really hoping to see come back somehow). There are also many unanswered questions (such as will there be a way for brands to translate their presence into Swarm and have “followers” like they could with Foursquare?). But overall I’m thrilled with Swarm and I’m very excited that so many of the community-oriented features that had been removed from Foursquare are now back and better than ever in Swarm. I can’t wait to see how awesome it becomes once everyone moves over from the Foursquare app and begins checking in. See you there!

Swarm Doge

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