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Apps Compared: Foursquare vs. Gowalla

Putting social networking apps to the test

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Gowalla vs Foursquare

Gowalla iPhone app

Gowalla

Gowalla and Foursquare are two of the most popular location-based social networking apps. Both of these apps help you find bars, restaurants, parks, or shopping centers near you, where you check in to connect with friends or rack up stamps and badges. While these apps are similar on the surface, which one will win our showdown?

Interface

Foursquare and Gowalla don’t win too many points on the interface front. While both apps are easy to navigate and relatively intuitive, they won’t win any design awards. Foursquare’s interface is particularly boring, while Gowalla wins a few style points for having colorful icons that designate each type of location. Winner: Gowalla.

Check-in Process

Both apps make it easy to find and check in at locations near you. They use the iPhone’s built-in GPS to display nearby locations, and checking in is as easy as tapping a button. On the detail page, you can see who has previously checked in or view the location on a map. Winner: Tie.  

Tips vs. Trips

In addition to checking in to your nearby locations, each app has its own extra features. The Foursquare iPhone app includes tips for each location, where users can leave helpful notes for others. Gowalla, on the other hand, has user-submitted trips. These can be anything from the best lunch places or bars to check out for a pub crawl in a particular city. I love the trips feature on Gowalla, while the Foursquare tips were less interesting. Winner: Gowalla.

Prizes

If you like racking up points or badges, both apps will meet your needs. Each time you check in, you can win badges on Foursquare or pins and stamps on Gowalla. I don’t find them very motivating, but others might. If you visit a location more than anyone else, you can become the Foursquare Mayor. This gives you little more than bragging rights, but some Foursquare-savvy bars and restaurants offer special discounts for their mayors. Winner: Foursquare.

Users

If you live in a small or mid-sized city, both Foursquare and Gowalla might not have much to offer you. Both apps are much more interesting in large cities, where they have more users and more activity. Even so, if you have a friends in your area who are using the apps, you may not care about seeing where strangers check in. In my test in a smaller city (population 100,000), it seemed that Gowalla had slightly more users. Both apps have plenty of users in larger cities. Winner: Gowalla (by a hair). 

Value

Both apps are free, so there’s little difference between Gowalla and Foursquare when it comes to value. Winner: Tie.    

Overall Winner

These social networking apps are free, so it can’t hurt to download each one to see which is more interesting for your area. While Foursquare has its redeeming qualities, Gowalla has a slightly better interface and I love the trips functionality. In this location-based app battle, Gowalla is the winner for iPhone users. 

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