Best App for Urban Social-Networking Game

Screenshots

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Gowalla Screenshot

Ticket to ride: The passport screen shows a summary of your urban travels, including your last check-in location. Stamps show how many different locations you’ve visited, and pins mark the number of achievements youv’e piled up Boy Scout style. Swipe through your collection of found items, or tap one to see its history including where you found it and who else owned it. Browse your pals’ locations and passports by tapping the Friends icon.

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Gowalla Screenshot

Check in: Check in with Gowalla when you arrive at a new location. The app shows nearby spots and also lets you browse locations by category. It’s easy to add new spots if Gowalla doesn’t know the quiet dive you just discovered, which also means you can use Gowalla anywhere in the world. Adding a new spot gives you bragging rights as its creator, and early visitors can become “founders” by dropping an item from their collection at that spot for others to pick up.

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Gowalla Screenshot

Presents! Every once in a while when you check in, Gowalla gives you a gift to add to your collection. Other times, as shown here, you’ll stumble onto items left by someone else, which you can swap for another item in your collection. There’s loose talk that Gowalla may eventually add real-world value to these items (think coupons that you can use at check-in spots), but for now, these found objects are just fun virtual swag.

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Gowalla Screenshot

Oh the places you’ll go: Your Gowalla passport tallies all the places you’ve visited. The Gowalla team sure knows their way around icon graphics; all the stamps, items, and pins are beautifully wrought. Featured locations and high-profile landmarks get custom icon designs beyond the standard category graphics. Tap a stamp to see where its spot is located, a list of top visitors, and a rundown of recent check-ins.

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Gowalla Screenshot

Tripping: The Trips screen offers themed scavenger hunts for you to complete by checking in at a collection of recommended spots. Visit ‘em all to earn a pin for your passport. For now at least, you can’t build your own trip, and the meager list of pre-stocked trips is available in only a handful of cities. That might be of some interest if you happen to visit one of those cities, but the feature would become much more fun if Gowalla allows regular folks to contribute their own local scavenger hunts and pub crawls.

Gowalla
Top Pick

Gowalla

Version: 1.3.0
Website: Gowalla

Gowalla gives you and your pals colorful passports to fill with stamps as you roam your city (or anywhere in the world). Check in to announce your location and let your entourage know where you are, including your Twitter and Facebook cronies. The app stamps your passport with a gorgeous icon for each new location you visit. Along the way, you pick up and swap virtual items (guitars, koi fish, cutoff shorts, you name it) and earn pins to mark your city-roaming achievements.


Honorable Mention

Screenshots

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Foursquare Screenshot

Your peeps: The Friends screen shows the recent check-ins in your Foursquare network. Tap a name to see your friend’s profile and more details about where they last checked in. Tap the Check-in button or the Places icon to announce your location and rack up a few points.

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Foursquare Screenshot

Mr. Mayor: Check in more than anyone else in a two-month period, and Foursquare elects you the mayor. Whether or not you’re the big McCheese, you always earn points for checking in, including bonuses for multiple stops, visiting a new place, and so on. Add your tip for a location (“Ask the bartender to arm wrestle,” “Try the double-dare hot sauce,” etc). You can add other people’s tips to your to-do list, or add your own to-dos directly.

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Foursquare Screenshot

Leading socialites: Foursquare ranks your city’s most active social butterflies each week. Check the leaderboard to see the standings (your own ranking is highlighted in red when you’re on the board). In addition to points, you can also earn badges for hard-won achievements like going out on a weekday, visiting four or more places in a night, or making frequent trips to the gym.

Foursquare

Foursquare

Version: 1.4.2
Website: Foursquare

Like Gowalla, Foursquare lets you and your chums keep tabs on each other’s whereabouts and make friends with others who visit the same haunts. But Foursquare adds a competitive spin: Instead of cuddly items and warm-your-heart stamps, Foursquare users play for points, adding to the tally with every check-in. Rack up the most check-ins for a specific location, and you become its mayor. The catch: Foursquare is available only for select cities (over 100 at last count), but it’s crazy-popular in many of those hamlets.


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2 Comments

Gowalla owns Foursquare. I just don't see the appeal for the latter.

Foursquare's iPhone app is complete garbage, and to create a spot, you have to know its street address. Plus, you can check in from anywhere.

Gowalla's scavenger hunt and geocaching nature puts it in a whole new category. Plus, both the design and functionality of the application far beyond what Foursquare has to offer.

Foursquare's early press has really given it traction, but let's hope that Gowalla will adopt some form of the more popular differentiating features and help the Foursquare user base see the light.

I'm a huge fan of Gowalla and use it daily! The single most important reason I love it -- excellent design! The interface, the graphics, the play-control... all of it reeks of the success that differentiated Apple in their product design. Keep up the great work!


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