FourSquare, everybody’s favorite not-owned-by-Facebook check-in service, just got a huge update rendering it prettier, less confusing and much less annoying when blown up for the iPad. There really aren’t many new features – unless you count a complete redesign as a feature.
The biggest change is that FourSquare is no longer focussed on checking in. It’s about recommendations. You can still tell it where you are and earn badges and mayorships (and users will have to keep checking in if the service is to work), but the point now is exploration.
The exploration tab has – like the whole app – been revamped. Hit it and you’ll see a map at the top of the screen (with place markers) and a list of locations underneath, complete with a photo and a comment. This makes it a lot easier to browse for places in your area, and it appears to be smart about other parameters, too. I was checking it out in bed this morning (I start work slowly) and it recommended to me a great brunch place (I get up late) I’d never heard of.
The recommendations will also be based on your past habits, and you can hit a “Top Picks” button for the area currently shown on the map to see popular places, filtered by category.
Checking in is still important, as it is the basis of FourSquare’s information pool, and you can now reach the check-in page from anywhere by hitting the icon permanently displayed at top right. Again you get a map and a list of places (with your favorites at the top of the list), and the whole thing is so much cleaner to look at and faster to use.
The other two navigation tabs (along with Explore) are Friends and Charlie (yours might have a different name). The Friends screen looks like a Path timeline, or a Twitter feed, and your own personal page now has various sections accessible by tapping one of a matrix of Metro-like squares. You can view your stats, photos, badges, tip you have left or just scroll down through your timeline to see everything in order.
For me, this update is fantastic. I use FourSquare mainly for two things: recording where I went on vacation, or on a trip to a new town (and I have the feeds piped into the excellent Momento diary app), and I also use it to find places to go in strange towns and cities. And these are exactly the things that have received the most attention in the new update.
Go check it out. If nothing else, you can use it as an excellent (and free) way to find new places to go. Me? I’m going to check out that new brunch place.