Why Location-based Services Are Here to Stay

By Devon Glenn 

Check-in services brought to the mobile space the novel idea that people could – and should – use their smartphones to document their travels in real time. A few years later, these same services are helping people do what people have really been trying to do all along: figure out where they are and find places to go from there.

In a recent study, Pew Research found that smartphone usage in the United States has risen from 35 percent of adults in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012. The people who receive location-based information has doubled at 23 percent in May 2011 to 41 percent in February 2012.

Some concepts are catching on more quickly than others. Although 74 percent of smartphone owners use their phones to get location-based information in real time, only 18 percent use a geosocial service to “check in” or share their locations with friends.

That’s not to say that no one is using check-in services like Foursquare. In 2012, 10 percent of adults reported using a geosocial service, up from 4 percent in 2011.

But in order to capture a larger share of the rapidly growing market, Foursquare and other companies are working on more practical applications for geosocial technology.  After revealing a new mobile app, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley told TechCrunch:

“If anything we might have de-emphasized the check-in a little bit. Just because we’re starting to see that a lot of the people that are using the app are not even checking in. They use it for recommendations, to explore, they use it to look up tips for the restaurant they’re currently at, to see where their friends are. We’ve been seeing this in our data for the past couple months or so.

And hey, if people want to use the app and continue to interact with it without checking in, that’s fine. That’s why we’ve made some of the other parts of the app the centerpiece this time around.”

Google didn’t need much help in the search department, but when the company switched out Google Places for Google+ Local, they added some of the social features that are native to Foursquare, as well as Zagat ratings to beef up the restaurant reviews from patrons to make their robust database of local businesses more informative.

The smartphone has revolutionized the way people explore the world. Standing in the street, smartphone in hand, they can see inside store windows and around corners to those people, places, and deals they might otherwise have missed. Even if location-based services haven’t convinced everyone to broadcast their whereabouts, they’re earning their place in the mainstream by eliminating the need for people to plan ahead.

Image by SVLuma via Shutterstock.