The New Foursquare Is Here

The check-in is dead. Foursquare, the service that popularized telling the world where you are, has fully removed the act of checking into venues from its app in Wednesday’s major update toiOS and Android, version 8.0.

Those who still want to announce their location can do so with Swarm, the company’s spin-off app, which debuted in May. Swarm is all about checking into places, and seeing what your friends are up to.

So where does that leave Foursquare? As one of the best city guides you can get on a smartphone, actually, with a fully revamped user experience that puts some of the 5-year-old company’s best information front and center. Foursquare 8.0 is a big step forward for the app, but it’s far from perfect, and longtime users may not have the patience to discover its charms.

We meet again

Foursquare 8.0 is a whole lot different — this is not your slightly older brother’s Foursquare. The app has been redesigned from the ground up, with new colors, a new layout (sans check-in button, of course) and new abilities. There’s even a new logo: In place of the old white checkmark there’s now a stylized “F” that resembles a flag with subtle “waves” emanating from it. What the F, indeed.

Launching it for the first time, you’ll be prompted to log in the same way you always have; but right afterward, the app begins creating a profile of you by asking what you’re into. You like iced coffee? Thai food’s your thing? How about cozy places? Choose as many or as few as you like, and Foursquare will know better which stuff to show you.

It uses these preferences — along with your check-in history, its own restaurant ratings and data from your Foursquare friends — to surface recommendations just for you. The more you use Foursquare, the smarter these recs will get, the company claims.

Foursquare’s new layout is busy. In place of a stream or a list, the app instead has a horizontal nav bar that includes everything from Breakfast to Nightlife, as well as a few extras such as Fun and Sights. Tap on one of these, and below the nav you’ll see photo-driven cards recommending nearby places based on their ratings, your tastes, your friends’ tastes and more.

It’s a lot to take in on a 4-inch iPhone screen. The density of visual information is symptomatic of the difficult problem Foursquare attempts to solve: It wants to serve you the single, perfect place that suits your mood and schedule, but it can’t read your mind. And even if it could, you probably don’t even know exactly what you want for any given request.

In other words, the app needs to give you options, and those options are often overwhelming. Thankfully, the new Foursquare encourages liberal use of its many filters when looking for the best venue.

Filters are the magic potion that make Foursquare recommendations useful and unique. Not only does it include the usual suspects of filtering by price, cuisine and distance, you can also get much more granular: The app lets you filter search results by specific features, such as being dog-friendly or having Wi-Fi.

What’s more, you can use your Foursquare history to make things even more specific. While looking for burger places during a walk near Mashable‘s office, the app initially called up venues such as Shake Shack and Schnipper’s — a pair of universally known burger joints that I don’t need to be told about. Going into the filters, however, and choosing “Places I haven’t been” resulted in a much more useful list. You can also filter by what your friends have recommended, and places you’ve saved, liked or visited.

Foursquare’s new filters are great, although they take some patience to fully explore, and some people may miss them altogether. Another feature that I think could use more calling out: map view.

By default, Foursquare shows search results as a list, but I find the map view more useful — especially if I want to find a venuebetween two places — but the new map icon is almost hidden. I much prefer the old Foursquare’s minimized map at the top of the results. I’d also like to be able to make map view the default.

Thanks to filters and profiling by user taste, the new Foursquare is a much more useful recommendation tool than previous generations, and certainly better than non-personalized databases like Yelp. However, it’s difficult to see anyone who isn’t already a power Foursquare user taking full advantage of those features. And the often excessive amount of information may have some deleting the app in disgust.

Foursquare’s new fit

Those willing to give the new Foursquare a chance will be rewarded, though. There’s a powerful recommendation engine, here, and it seems its new tools are just the first steps toward taking into account true user context. I can envision a future Foursquare that not only makes note of my Foursquare history, but also where I live and work, the routes I walk every day and even what I had for breakfast that morning.

In the here and now, though, Foursquare 8.0 gets along just fine without the check-in. Its absence, though, means many users will have to switch habits in order to get value out of the app, and that’s a tall order no matter how good Foursquare is. But the company did succeed in remaking its app into a pretty amazing city guide, provided users invest time in getting familiar with it.


Author: Pete Pachal
Source: Mashable