This past Thursday the mobile application Foursquare released a complete upgrade for the company's over 20 million worldwide users.
As a pretty avid Foursquare user, I took the new upgrade for a spin and for the past few days have been exploring the features and their implications for casual users and businesses that hope to benefit from the application.
On a average day, Foursquare users accumulate billions of checkins and for a long time, you couldn't do much more than just check in. In the new update, however, this has all changed as the application has become significantly more social and many of the features only seen in Foursquare's Web interface have finally found a home in the sleek redesign.
Unlike before, the application's redesigned main friend's feed is geared toward helping you not only see who's around you, but also to interact with them and the venues where they check in.In the feed, checkins appear with slices of images users have submitted and you can now like checkins, venues and comments, and doing so publishes in your feed. Your activity on the network such a liking, commenting and adding things to lists is then published into your feed to increase likelihood of friend interaction.
The application's best feature, the explore tab, now aggregates venues to make suggestions automatically. They are grouped according to both things you may want to find such as restaurants, places popular with other users, or that you may have on your existing lists.
The search function is still available and you can quickly decide what type of venue you want to find nearby--whether it's a special deal a business is offering or the nearest coffee shop. Also, a new directions button on each listing now makes the leap from the app to your phone's mapping system with significantly less steps.
Finally, the user's profile screen has been reorganized with quick buttons and a full activity history. The full history includes all the images you have uploaded and lists finally have a convenient home where they can be viewed and updated with ease.
Some issues still needing to be addressed are the radar function (hidden in your settings) and the occasional non-intuitive pagination when jumping between user and venue data. A big disadvantage is the loss of the ability to easily see friends nearby and filter the main feed according to who's near you (note: while the explore option does mention friends in the area, it doesn't really answer this issue effectively).
Most significantly, the upgrade makes it more apparent that Foursquare must equip businesses with tools to track new interaction around their place of business both in feeds and on venue listings. So let's hope the next update is to the analytics in their merchant platform which they offer to business owners who have verified themselves.
If you've previously hesitated on using Foursquare, I believe this is the best time to test out the application.
Existing users will find themselves spending more time using the application than before, but won't find drastic changes in the update. Instead they're getting an improvement on the social quality of the app and the organization of it's best features. Businesses can expect increased interaction and should pay attention to Foursquare in the hopes that they will bolster the ability to engage users and utilize user data.