These are the ambient social apps competing for SoLoMo dominance

sonar _ imageThe mission statements from the new class of ambient social apps run the gamut, but their basic intention is to connect people and to eradicate missed opportunities. How many times have you been a block away from your college roommate without either of you being the wiser? Well, the point is you have no idea how many times, but start using these types of apps and it’s probably more than you think.

In addition to finding these missed connections, so-called SoLoMo apps are also event-happy. At big shows, conference, and festivals, the spike in location services means they become a hive of activity.

Despite all the build-up, there’s been a lot of griping about these apps. Now that SXSW Interactive Week has come and passed, the criticisms are rolling in. The startups that were supposed to steal the spotlight were hyped to their limits in the anticipation for the show, and the general consensus has been that they didn’t deliver.

The available apps are too passive or too clunky or activity spikes only to completely drop off afterward – these are the common complaints. Lump in the fact that they suck battery life (which is quickly getting better) plus all your common privacy concerns, and I wouldn’t begrudge a user from being entirely turned off from the lot of SoLoMo apps.

However, what’s become increasingly clear is that there’s huge potential here, regardless of the various hang ups. The future of apps will include this type of background, location-awareness – but the jury’s out on whether or not it will be a standalone function or a feature woven into Facebook or Foursquare. I’m waiting to hear about an acquisition involving one of the below-mentioned companies – it just has to be on the horizon.

Until you’ve had one of these apps accomplish something for you, it’s easy to be critical. Just this weekend Highlight alerted me a friend who’d recently moved was in the same store that I was – without it, we would have missed each other. The execution of these apps has yet to be refined, but their purpose is compelling. Here’s a look at the major players in this space that you might want to get familiar with.


If you’re even slightly in the SXSW loop, you’ve heard of (and are possibly sick of hearing about) Highlight. The ambient reality app is easily the most popular of this crew and had an impressive launch that helped kick off the increasing interest in this market.

Pros: Highlight has a simple, intuitive, eye-pleasing UI. Even before you know what you’re doing with it, you know it’s fun to look at. That makes it easy to navigate as well – there’s no confusion to this app. It also lays out everything you need to know about this class of apps: when to put it down (right when you sign up for the app, it instructs you to back out because it won’t work just by staring at it), how to pause it, that you need to turn on your location settings.

highlightCons: Because Highlight is so simple, that means when the one thing that there is to do – meet people in the area – isn’t available, it gets boring. There also isn’t a utilitarian way to use the app (yet); when I sat down with Highlight creator Paul Davison, I asked if there would ever be a way to message people within 1000 square feet of you to ask common questions like “does anyone want to share a cab to the airport?” or “what Wi-Fi network is working for you?” – things you’d like answers to from the people around you but don’t necessarily want to shout out. Right now, this feature isn’t there, but he says there is potential. Highlight is also very “people” focused, which is all well and good until you find you want to search by location to see if anyone is around. 

Best if… : You want to really get the SoLoMo experience; if you want to dive in and really give this thing a shot, try Highlight.


Uber rolls out rewards program that lets its most loyal riders lock in prices

Uber launched a new loyalty program today called Uber Rewards. It offers frequent riders credits to Uber Eats, car upgrades, and the ability to lock in prices on their most traveled routes.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Our favorite ebook reader is not a Kindle. Here are all the best options

If you're a bookworm, an ebook reader can be an important part of your life, one that allows you to read your books whenever and wherever you like. But which should you get? Here are five of the best ebook readers available.

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.

Motorola Moto G7: Here’s everything we know

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.

T-Mobile's new Revvl 2, Revvl 2 Plus are now available for purchase

Last year, T-Mobile launched its own line of branded smartphones. As a follow-up to their predecessors, the carrier has unveiled the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus -- complete with a sleeker design. Here's everything you need to know.

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…

Leak shows a third, budget Google Pixel 3 with a Snapdragon 670, headphone jack

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 device that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.

Use multiple phone numbers on one device with Verizon’s ‘My Numbers’ app

For those who have separate phone numbers and devices for your work and personal lives, Verizon wants to help you get more organized. With its new "My Numbers" app, you can use up to four additional phone numbers on a single smartphone.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
1 of 5