Foursquare has pushed its latest update, bringing a few back end and front end changes in addition to compatibility with the iPhone 5’s larger screen size. Simply put, the app offers a faster browsing experience and uses the data culled from your friend’s outing habits to become a smarter version of itself.
Since pivoting from a complete focus on the check-in, Foursquare has honed in on building products for personalizing the experience with unique results for each user. You can think of it as a mobile, personalized Yelp on-the-go. “It’s a personalized map made just for you,” Foursquare wrote in its blog post. What this means is that the search results will be uniquely tailored to you rather than offering “one-size-fits-all” content. It’s a pretty direct jab at Yelp, which was recently integrated into Apple’s new iOS 6 map.
With Foursquare using OpenStreetMap, you could even use the service as an Apple Maps as well as a Yelp alternative. Of course you have to realize that Foursquare is a much bigger, more fully-featured platform than Yelp is; the latter is a rudimentary service that simply plots venues and restaurants on a map sans recommendations.
With over 2.5 billion check-ins and “tens of millions” of tips, Foursquare claims to know a thing or two about your friends and the places they frequent. This information is tied into Foursquare’s search function (which actually has a decent amount in common with Google Social Search), so when you’re typing in “Chinese food,” it’s most likely that no two results using the same term on from two different user accounts will be the same. If your friends have checked-in to a specific Chinese food location, that restaurant will likely be suggested and appear at the top of the search results.
In addition to the under-the-hood update to its search engine, you’ll notice a few search categories that have popped up within the “Explorer” tab for discovering new venues or restaurants. Categories like “Haven’t Been,” “Been Before,” and “Friends Have Been” are the latest newcomers to the existing list of general tabs including “Food,” “Arts,” “Shopping,” and “Top Picks.” You can also now add places that you’ve visited to a list of “Saved” locations for those favorite places that you’d like to revisit.
It deserves mentioning that for the new personalized features to work, users will still have to rely on checking-in ti their locations — there’s no workaround to this, and in order to give you those personalized results, Foursquare needs to know where you and your friends are going. Until Foursquare implements some sort of ambient location feature that runs in the background, the check-in is going to remain an important part of its function.
The update is available in the App Store for all iOS devices, including the iPhone 5.