Review: Rally Up is the Coolest Social Networking App for iPad

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Rally Up, the newish location based social networking app, released an update for iPad Thursday that immediately puts the upstart application ahead of the game for people who want to keep track of and interact with their friends on the iPad.

Taking full advantage of the iPad’s increased real estate, Rally Up’s unique map-based canvas gives the app a level of functionality and makes it interesting in ways that market leaders Foursquare and Gowalla have yet to achieve. By designing the app to take advantage of iPad’s support for popping info out and overlaying things on the same screen, Rally Up manages to let its users interact with the app in fewer taps and screen changes, allowing for more time to browse and interact with the content being constantly generated by users’ friends.

Because iPad usage patterns are likely to skew towards more time spent lingering over applications than the quick, get-in-and-get-out experience many desire from the iPhone, Rally Up’s focus on content — and the way it presents all of a user’s friends and their feeds in a single, map-based global view — makes using it a decidedly more immersive experience than other social networking apps can so far provide.

“The iPad really changes the experience of a [location based social app],” said Rally Up founder Sol Lipman. “It becomes less of a push app and more of a pull app, in my opinion. You want to sit and explore, not just wait until your friend tells you what they’re up to.”

Of course, no social networking app is interesting or becomes a whole lot of fun until one has a lot of contacts using it, which is both Rally Up’s greatest challenge and potentially its greatest advantage. Test marketed with just a few thousand beta users primarily in the developers’ home base Santa Cruz, CA until its public release last month, Rally Up will need to gain traction in places such as San Francisco and New York, where larger samplings of early-adopting mobile applications geeks tend to live.

A significant differentiator for Rally Up is its focus on being shared among “real” friends, with granular privacy settings that allow users to hide their location from certain people in their contact list. Users can create “temporary” locations for events such as house parties without permanently adding them to the app’s database, and any location designated as “home” by a user is automatically kept private.

In the time this reviewer has had to play with Rally Up, the app has definitely seemed more interesting and interactive than Foursquare or Gowalla; Mr. Lipman’s description of it as a “pull” app rather than a “push” app rings very much true.

Now I just need more of my friends to join the mobility revolution and get with the iPhone/iPad program.