Swarm by Foursquare is a new social checkin and meetup up for iPhone. At first I was a little stumped. Why would I need Swarm if my friends and I already use Foursquare? However, as I started using Swarm I started to change my mind. It's a different app and it's useful for something that's both similar and yet very different from Foursquare — seeing what your friends are up to and figuring out how and where to meet up with them.
Anyone who already uses Foursquare should understand the basic concepts of Swarm immediately. Just as you would check in on Foursquare, you can do the same through Swarm. The main difference is that Swarm is meant to be used when you are looking for something to do or you're attending an event you'd like other people to join you.
While Foursquare functions as a feed of all your Foursquare contacts, Swarm focuses only on those that are currently nearby. The main screen gives you an overview of who is in your direct vicinity, whose a few miles out, and who's far away. If you're looking for something to do, let your friends know where you are by checking in and then post a status. They can then let you know they're interested. Since Swarm can actively run in the background, it can alert you when your friends are nearby or want to meet up. The only downside is that obviously constant use of GPS can and will run your battery down faster.
Swarm also integrates with Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and SMS — if you let it. This means if one of your friends is nearby and you want to contact them, just tap on their photo choose your contact method. Since Swarm ties directly into Foursquare, you'll also receive all your Foursquare friend requests through Swarm as well.
A unique feature to Swarm is sticker collection. Anyone who remembers Gowalla, which sadly was discontinued many years ago, most likely remembers picking up items at places when checking in and adding them to your pack. The sticker aspect of Swarm somewhat reminds me of the days of Gowalla. Unfortunately, I don't really see a way to interact with items like you could in Gowalla. Perhaps that will come in a future update.
- Easy to use interface and design that will be familiar to most Foursquare users
- Great integration with Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and SMS for one touch contact with friends
- Easily turn off your location information if you go somewhere you don't want to broadcast
- Not a lot of people seem to be using Swarm just yet, which limits its usefulness for the time being
- Pulls from the same great Foursquare database of locations and data
The bottom line
The more I use Swarm, the more I think it has its own unique place when it comes to social checkin apps. I'll continue to use Foursquare when I'm traveling for the great recommendations and information from locals but I think I'll use Swarm more often when I'm around my hometown and looking for something to do. I'm just hoping more people find out about it and start using it.
If you've used Swarm already, what do you think of it? Will you just continue to use Foursquare or can you find a place for Swarm in your social checkin routine?
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iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.