Bring your social networks together with Banjo

Banjo is a new mobile social networking service for iOS and Android, available now from the App Store and Google Play. It aims to provide a simple, location-based means of bringing together several popular social networks and also allowing users to discover new friends in the same area.

This review is based on the iOS version of the app, tested on an iPhone 4S.

In order to make use of Banjo, users must connect it to one or more of the supported social networking accounts, which include Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Instagram. On the iOS version of the app, Twitter functionality is handled by iOS 5+’s built-in capabilities, Facebook integration is handled via the external app and other services are logged into via an in-app browser.

Once the user is logged in to one or more services, they may begin browsing through updates. There are several means of doing this — the user may pick their own location or a specific location around the world (including a number of featured “personalized” locations), or alternatively browse through updates from their friends that have locations attached. Location data can come from Foursquare or Facebook checkins or information attached to posts from other networks. Users may tap on an individual update’s location information to see other updates from the same location, first from friends and secondly from public posts in the same area. It’s also possible to look at a map of an area, see who is posting from where and interact with them according to the social network the post originated from.

The app can also be used to post directly to its various supported social networks with the exception of Instagram — it’s possible to like and comment on Instagram photos from Banjo, but not to post pictures directly to the service. In this way, Banjo can be used as a convenient means of updating several social networks without having to switch apps, though the only way to post to several at the same time is by using a Foursquare checkin posted to Twitter and Facebook, which may not be desirable or practical for all users — least of all those who do not have a Foursquare account!

The app also features a real-time chat facility, enabling Banjo users who are connected to one another via one or more of their social networks to communicate directly with one another.

Banjo is a simple, well-presented app that is quite interesting to explore, but it could do with some functionality tweaks. The ability to create a new post on social networks is not in the most obvious location, for example — in most other apps, users expect this to be a “pencil” icon in the upper right corner of the screen; in Banjo, this position is taken up by the user’s profile picture, which simply takes them to a list of friends on Banjo and the ability to add additional social networks. Instead, to compose a new update, the user must go to the Social tab at the bottom of the screen — or alternatively reply to a post in a location or from a friend.

It’s also not entirely clear what the real purpose of the app is. Sure, the ability to bring several social networks together in a single app is quite convenient, but this convenience is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it’s unintuitive and difficult to post to more than one at the same time — impossible if you don’t have a Foursquare account. Similarly, Instagram connectivity is nice, but this functionality is crippled by the fact it’s not possible to post photos to the service from within Banjo. It’s not as if there’s no photo functionality in Banjo, either — updating any of the other social networks allows for the taking and cropping of photos.

Ultimately, then, Banjo is left as an interesting curiosity and a potential means of finding new friends or people to follow in various locations. As a social networking tool, it is somewhat flawed; for most users, the specialist apps for each of the individual supported services remain the best means of interacting with friends and followers.

Banjo is currently ranked at No. 76 in the top free social networking apps leaderboard on iOS, and No. 53 in the social apps category on Android. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.