Show you’re on the way with Glympse

glympseGlympse is an iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry app from the company of the same name. The app originally launched back in 2009, but has undergone numerous major revisions since then — revisions which have allowed it to survive in the crowded marketplace even as other location-based mobile-social apps either withered and died or found themselves acquired and merged into other services. The current version of Glympse, which is a free download on all platforms, is currently enjoying a feature spot in the New & Noteworthy section of Apple’s iOS App Store. This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.

One of the reasons Glympse has survived so long is its fundamental rethinking of how location-based apps can and should work. Rather than creating a proprietary social network for users to share their location with friends using the service and other networks connected to it, Glympse is not reliant on any sort of traditional social functionality and does not have its own attached social network in the traditional sense. Rather, it is an app intended to allow users to quickly and easily share their current location and/or estimated time of arrival at a specific destination — and to be able to do this in a cross-platform manner that is not reliant on other people having the app installed, or on people having a compatible device.

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Instead, what Glympse allows people to do is to immediately generate a Web link to their current location and then share this with people through a variety of different ways. The app allows for the sharing of location on an individual basis via SMS/iMessage or email, publicly or semi-publicly via Facebook and Twitter, with a specific group of people via a Glympse Groups function, or with any other apps by copying the link to the device’s clipboard. Besides their current location, users may also share their proposed destination if it is different from their current location, add a message (either predefined or custom) and choose how long they would like to share their location for up to a maximum of four hours, device battery permitting. While Glympse is actively sharing the user’s location, it not only tracks their current position, but also their speed and estimated time of arrival at the destination if this is different from their current location — even when the app is running in the background. A Glympse may also be expired manually before its timer expires at any time the user pleases — otherwise, it will remain visible on the Web until the time runs out. There is no option for users to permanently share their location.

When a Glympse has been received, it may be viewed on any Web-capable device including computers, regardless of whether or not they have the Glympse app installed. From the Web view of the Glympse, users may see all the relevant data sent from the app, see when the app last updated the user’s location, and also provides a link to launch or download Glympse to their device if it is not already installed.

Glympse is such an eminently sensible twist on the location-aware app that it’s something of a wonder more developers haven’t tried to replicate the service with their own versions. It’s ideal for use in a wide variety of situations, ranging from showing a loved one how long it will be until you get home, to publicly sharing the location for a special event or party. The fact it is not reliant on its own app or on a social network (proprietary or otherwise) and instead simply broadcasts to the open Web is an excellent idea — while not everyone will find it useful all the time, for those occasions where you do quickly and easily need to share your location with one or more other people, it’s an extremely well-implemented, well-designed app that most certainly deserves a place on your mobile device.

Glympse is currently ranked at No. 27 in Top Free Navigation Apps and No. 30 in Top Free iPad Navigation Apps on iOS. Its feature spot went live today, so at the time of writing it remains to be seen if this will attract some new downloads. On Android, it is ranked at No. 116 in the Social category, and No. 458 in the Widgets category. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.