Posts Tagged ‘location’

Tech Trends: Week of 4/18/2011

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Admittedly, this post should probably be titled “Apple Trends” – the past week’s been pretty saturated with fruit. So be it.

iPhone location tracking

In a blowup that we’ve all heard about, iOS 4′s been discovered to store a file, consolidated.db, that contains latitude and longitude coordinates of its location history.  The issue’s hit the mainstream news, and a good amount of people are now freaking out that “Apple knows where I am”. It’s important to understand that the file is stored locally, not on Apple’s servers. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the use of Foursquare and the like, but I don’t see a huge cause for concern. The lack of user consent is a little disconcerting, but as long as users act with responsibility in the security of their device, there shouldn’t be an opportunity for anyone to snatch the file. That means don’t jailbreak, install OpenSSH, and leave the default password.

iPhone 5 (4S) buzz building

It’s been pretty well-circulated that the iPhone 5 won’t be coming until after June, and if Reuters is anywhere near the mark, it looks like September is the magic month. The next-generation phone’s also being rumored to sport an A5 processor; BGR somehow picked up a T-Mobile test device which backs up the theory. Deetz on the naming scheme weren’t given, but I’d hope Apple continues with “iPhone 5″ for the sake of consistency, although my bets are on the rumored “iPhone 4S” based on the history of “3G” and “3GS”. Both are consistent in their own right, though, depending if you compare it to numerical progressions or past devices.

Apple sues Samsung…and vice versa

Apple’s suing Samsung based on allegations that TouchWiz has too many user interface similarities to iOS.  I’ve never used a Samsung device full-time, but I’m not sold on the similarities between the two platforms, especially when a lawsuit’s in play. The whole idea of skinning Android has never been something I’m fond of, but Apple’s taking the wrong approach in granularly comparing color schemes and icons. An OS shouldn’t be defined by textbook UI elements, but by the overall feeling that washes over the user when using the device. In that respect, TouchWiz can’t *touch* iOS; unfortunately, that “overall feeling” is extremely difficult to quantify. So let’s just sue each other.

Phat beats in the cloud

Reuters is at it yet again, claiming that Apple’s positioned to beat Google to market in rolling out a cloud music storage platform. Regardless of internal progress, I doubt Apple will announce anything too soon, even at WWDC. The scenario that makes the most sense to me would be an expansion of their typical September music event to include the unveiling of the iPhone 5/4S in conjunction with the music service. The race to 1.0 probably won’t be as huge of a deal as it’s being made out to be, though – both Apple and Google have a solid base of users, and each platform’s users will end up using the respective service independent of the other.

Thoughts? Nervously looking around and taking a hammer to your iPhone? Supporting Apple or Samsung in the series of lawsuits? Comment away!

Facebook Places

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

It’s been interesting to see the progression of Facebook’s strategy over the past few years.

First, they began emulating Twitter with statuses and redesigned feeds, now location-based services are being integrated with the rollout of Facebook Places.

I’m curious as to whether they’re “following trends”, or simply copying everyone else. Facebook started as an easy way to keep in touch with people you know, yet they’re straying more and more from that core competency.

Foursquare and Gowalla serve very small niches, in that everyone I add or accept is there solely for the purpose of sharing location. However, when you bring the massive amounts of Facebook friends into the loop, you run into an issue of not only privacy, but also relevance.

I check in quite frequently, so my (currently nonexistent) use of Places would quickly become annoying to friends, somewhat akin to linking all Twitter posts to Facebook. Plus, I’d rather check in on Foursquare, where I can earn points, mayorships, badges, specials, and other cool schwag.

It’s also strange that the outrage surrounding this launch isn’t near as bad as the blowup a few months ago. I’d think the average user with the notion of “Facebook knows my location” would raise a lot more red flags than a few tweaks here and there. Just goes to show how much of an impact bloggers have on public perception.

The big picture

Places is taking location to the mainstream. We’re seeing the same trends repeat themselves as with the shark-jumping of Twitter. Depending on opinion, this could be seen as good or bad, but, from a somewhat selfish perspective, I think it’s more of the latter.

I remember when none of my non-tech friends were on Twitter, and to be honest, I kinda liked it that way. Twitter was my happy place. Now it’s location apps.

Oh, wait.

Do you use Facebook Places? Is the mainstream push of location good or bad?

Thoughts on Foursquare

Monday, April 12th, 2010

In the past few years, location-based social networking has really taken off, namely SXSW-fueled Foursquare. I first began using location services back in the days of Brightkite, through which I’d post a shortened URL to Twitter. It worked great for a while, but I became bummed out with the limited interactivity of Brightkite and began to slack off on my checkins.

And then came Foursquare.

I’d heard about Foursquare well before I signed up for an account. I held off, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with the unnecessary hassle of integrating yet another site into my online presence. However, the buzz eventually became too large to ignore, so I broke down and set up an account.

The Good

As a user, you’re constantly engaged with badges, mayorships, and points.  At some places, the checkin race for mayor can be quite competitive, leading to Foursquare’s true value for businesses: customer loyalty. I’ll occasionally drop by a Starbucks when I might otherwise not, simply for the sake of protecting my mayorship. Recognizing this value, Starbucks has teamed up with the Austin startup to provide a badge for checking in at 5 different locations. Hopefully this will lead to a special offer (discounts provided by venues rewarding frequent checkins and/or mayorships).

It’s also helpful to be able to see when others are checked in at the same place – a refreshing way to meet new people. The ability to view a record and trends of everywhere you’ve been is also interesting; there’s a site called CheckoutCheckins that authenticates with Foursquare, allowing you to view a heat map of your history.

The Not-So-Good

Unfortunately, once most of the basic badges are unlocked (Newbie to Super User), it can be difficult to gain some of the more obscure ones, so most of the gaming element shifts to mayorships. Also, opponents claim privacy as a major issue, especially with the recent launch of PleaseRobMe. However, that’s dependent on people knowing where you live – users just need to be responsible in their friending and accepting, as well as in the pushing of checkins to other sites. You control the data that’s put out there. I won’t accept a request from anyone that:

  1. I haven’t met in person.
  2. I don’t have any idea of who they are.
  3. Isn’t local.

It’s nothing personal, I just don’t see the value in having hundreds of friends that I either haven’t met or don’t have a chance of meeting. You can’t treat Foursquare like other social networks; you need to be mindful of everyone that will be seeing checkin data, which, within the site, only friends can view. And don’t add your house.

Overall

There’s definitely ups and downs, but Foursquare is still an exciting platform to be on. It’s tough to put my finger on the single element that keeps me hooked: a combination between the competitive nature and connectivity between friends. The platform’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re the New Dork type, I recommend giving it a try.

Are you an active Foursquare user? Does the good outweigh the bad?