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Foursquare 8.0: All things reconsidered

Chewing a feather

Who was not a happy camper when Foursquare suddenly decided to take their self-named app, rip the fun part -- check-ins -- out of the app, and put it into a new app named Swarm? Me, that's who. It really torqued me off that an app that I had enjoyed for years was suddenly breaking into two apps. Hell, that's almost as bad as what Facebook did, forcing users to load another app (Facebook Messenger) to do something they'd always been able to do from within the iOS Facebook app. Well, the new Foursquare app, AKA version 8.0, arrived today, so I decided to take a hit for the team and install it.

The first thing you notice is the new Foursquare logo, kind of a pink (er, magenta) stylized "F" -- apparently meant to represent a pin on a map -- on a background of expanding grey circles. That takes a bit of getting used to, since the original Foursquare branding was seared into my brain. But I can adjust...

What Foursquare has done by splitting into two apps is kept the fun of checkins and social with Swarm, and then vastly improved discovery of restaurants, stores, and other locations with the Foursquare app. When you fire up Foursquare for the first time, the app tells you that with the first splash screen. Swarm is meant, according to that splash screen, to "teach" Foursquare about the places you like the most.

A Twitter conversation revealed that some users think the onboarding process for Foursquare was too long and detailed. I'm assuming that these people were logging into Foursquare for the first time and not previous users, since all I got was a few helpful screens explaining new features before being asked to do some simple configuration.

To begin with, you are asked to "tap a few things you like". If you've been a Foursquare user for years like I have, the company has a lot of ideas about what kind of things you like. For me, I started by tapping on pulled pork sandwiches, steak, IPAs, bistro, bison burgers, fireplaces, burritos, fajitas, and more. You can add more "likes" later on, so it's not really important to spend a lot of time on this starting out.

Next, Foursquare comes up with nearby recommendations. Not surprisingly, two places that I enjoy for a really good pizza (one traditional NY style, the other just plain amazing), were near the top of the list. Foursquare also displays a list of places recommended by people who I follow.

Along the bottom of the new app are buttons for finding a place, "Here" for getting information about the place you're at and also shunting you to Swarm to check in, "Tips" from people you either follow or who have similar tastes, and a profile button. By the way, when you're moved over to Swarm for the check-in, the top of the screen turns blue and displays a notification to tap it to return to Foursquare. The two apps are nicely integrated in that manner, switching seamlessly with a tap.

The Tips button provides a way to save tips so that you're reminded when you're near or at a place. For example, if I choose to save a tip about some good fish tacos at a smoothie place nearby, whenever I'm near there I'll be reminded.

The Profile button shows how many tips you've left, how many followers you have and how many people you follow, as well as telling you how much of an expert you are in terms of various tastes by how many tips you've left.

No matter what screen you're looking at, there will always be a small blue "leave a tip" button in the upper right hand part of the screen that looks disturbingly like the icon for Microsoft Word for iPad. Tapping the Foursquare button in the upper left corner of the screen lets you add tastes, follow people, and otherwise personalize your Foursquare settings. Foursquare now provides a list of people you may wish to follow based on your contacts, Facebook friends, Twitter pals, and Instagram buddies. It recommended that I follow Apple "lost co-founder" Ron Wayne on Foursquare...

So yeah, I'm still a bit peeved that Foursquare decided to split into two apps. But after seeing just how much more functionality is in Foursquare 8.0 and Swarm, and how well the two apps work together, it's time for me to eat a bit of crow (hence the image at the top of the page). I think they really did know what they were doing. Forgive me, Foursquare, for ever doubting you!

But Facebook and Facebook Messenger? I'll never forgive Mark Zuckerberg's minions for splitting a perfectly fine instant messaging feature out of Facebook ... at least this week.

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