Foursquare, the location-based social networking service, rolled out their BlackBerry beta app on Christmas Eve and I was thrilled to receive one of the invites. The company sent out an email to about one thousand people who made the VIP list of beta testers so they could download the app to their BlackBerry and take it for a test drive.
Unlike iPhone and Android users, who were already familiar with a Foursquare app, BlackBerry users were forced to visit the Foursquare mobile site (m.foursquare.com) to “Check-in” to venues so I was stoked when Foursquare released the BlackBerry app. I was ready to download the app, fire it up, and give it a go.
After messing around with the app for a couple days I decided to share my experience so you could familiarize yourself with the app’s features and be ready to go when you get your hands on the release candidate. Upon entering my credentials and logging in, I was brought to the main screen where I had the option to “Check-in” or “Shout.” On this same screen I was able to see a list of all my friends and the venues they were checked into as well. Choosing the “Check-in” option populates a list of nearby venues based on GPS so this way the user can select their venue from the list and Check-in. After selecting the venue in the list there will be a “Check-in” button on the very top, a map of the venue, the current mayor of the venue, who checked in recently, and an option to add a tip for the venue. Once you click “Check-in” you will have three options available before the check-in process is complete. First option, the user can choose to “Shout” a message along with their Check-in which is similar to a tweet on Twitter. Second, there is an option labeled “Tell my friends” which allows your Foursquare friends to see what venue you are at. Lastly, there is an option to send the Check-in and/or Shout to your Twitter stream. Keep in mind that if you untick “Tell my friends” no one will be able to see your location. Instead, friends will see “[off the grid]” which basically tells your friends that you are checked in, but hiding you location from them. You can still earn points, unlock badges, and become the mayor of venues when “off the grid,” but activity will not be made public. Now, in the event the venue you are looking for is not in the populated list, you can scroll to the bottom and select “Not in list?” and then use the search function to find a venue by manually typing the venue name. However, if the venue is still not in the list, you have the option to click “Still not in list?,” create the venue, and then check-in. Although it might sound like it is too much work and time consuming to create a new venue, extra points are awarded to the user when new venues are created so it might be worth your while if you are interested in earn points.
As I mentioned above, the “Shout” option is similar to a tweet on Twitter. The user can choose this option to send a “Shout” to their friends on Foursquare without checking into a venue. Like the “Check-in” option, you have the option to send a Shout to your Twitter stream too so your followers can read the same message your Foursquare friends read. If you have not already configured your settings, I suggest configuring your Twitter settings on the Foursquare Web site this way you don’t annoy your Twitter followers with constant Foursquare updates. For example, on occasion I tweet my location, but I don’t allow Foursquare to tweet every single venue I check into. Instead, I only allow Foursquare to automatically tweet when I unlock a badge and become mayor of a venue – that’s it.
Below the “Check-In” and “Shout” options is a list of your friends and the venues they are checked into. Clicking on a name will bring up their profile which will allow you to Check-in to the same venue as them, call, text, email, or visit their Twitter feed. Scroll down to the bottom of the profile and you will be able to see all the badges your friend unlocked. Interested in seeing how your friend unlocked all those badges? Choose a badge and click on to bring up “Badge Details.”
I also want to mention that there is a menu at the very top of the home screen (above “Check-in” and “Shout”) that has the labels “Friends,” “Places,” and “More.” Selecting “Friends” is nothing more than the home screen itself, “Places” performs the same function as choosing the “Check-in” option, and “More” allows the user to send feedback to Foursquare, view the Leaderboard for your city, and configure notification settings. These notification settings are different than the settings on the Foursquare Web site. These settings allow you to turn pop-up alerts “on” or “off” when your friends Check-in.
In the end, this BlackBerry appears to have all the features needed to join the Foursquare party. There are a couple minor bugs like with any beta software, but these are being addressed by the Foursquare team and will be fixed before the app is released to the public. Keep checking the Foursquare Web site for the release.