Somewhere in every smartphone's app store is one application that shows just how powerful, useful and slick the built in UI of that handset is. Metro UI and Windows Phone now has that champion - it's the latest version of Foursquare (v2.7), with Mango support, live tiles, and more.
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
Boiling it down, Foursquare is a big "I am here" application, so your Windows Phone is going to kick in the GPS, take that location and find out what's close by in the Foursquare database. Pick where you are, and check-in. On top of that you can leave a little message ("Just arrived at work and I have found coffee! Go me!!!"), attach a picture (either from your galleries or take a new one inside the app), or look at the tips left by other users. Simple!
Starting up the app (and on the first run, you log in to Foursquare - naturally these details are remembered), the "Places" part of the Panorama will come up. A quick slide of the finger will let you reach your friends screens, your personal "me" screen, and finally the explore section.
Places will show eight locations, partly down to your historical usage, but also what's around you. There's a refresh button as well as the search option to make sure you can keep exploring. Need to add a new venue? That can be done as well from within the application. (Special offers by companies working with Foursquare can be found here as well).
Just as Places provides it's own panorama pivot, so does Friends, showing who is near to you (which is a nice subset), all your friends no matter where they are in the world, and requests from people who want to be your friend.
The "me" tab perhaps is less useful than the others. It's primarily to look at the venue to-dos you have collected, as well as your position in the leaderboard. The former is something that I've rarely used, and this app isn't going to change that, while the leaderboard is on the live tile - more on that in a moment.
Finally, the Explore screen lets you tap into the Foursquare database to find fun stuff around you. The initial prompts for coffee, nightlife and A&E (that's arts and entertainment, not the local Hospital) maybe say too much about the hipsters who programmed the application than what's in your area. More importantly, it works well, and a tap on the thumbnail map will open up a full screened version. It's just unfortunate that you can't then add this to your Map favourites or get navigation directions from your location.
With Mango support, Foursquare has taken full advantage of the live tile concept. Pinning the Foursquare application to your start screen will show your position in the leaderboard (the ranked scores of your friends) and who's directly ahead of and behind you. This is a smart move from Foursquare. Constantly seeing that you are not #1 is enough to get the competitive spirit going, and that means checking in. And check-ins are exactly what Foursquare as a company needs.
The other live tile option is to pin a specific location to your start screen. Naturally I've put my office there, and one tap on that and I get taken to the check-in screen and the options for regular or fast check-in are presented in the bottom icon bar.
Windows Phone has been built around the idea of getting to information quickly, quick glances to see what is happening, and the smooth use of Metro to provide consistency but still retain a flexible experience for the user. Foursquare's nature fits the former ideals, and its developers have ensured the latter. It's a joy to use on Windows Phone, and I'm glad Foursquare has made the conscious decision to embrace Metro 100% rather than try to graft on its existing app look and feel from the Apple/Android/Symbian axis.
There's an argument that using the Panorama style UI slows down your check-in process, but I'm not finding that. Once you open the main app, the nearby locations are refreshed and a long hold on one of them lets you do a fast check-in. I'm not sure you can get faster than that for new locations.
If you're a heavy Foursquare user, then there's no reason not to use this app. If you had tried the first version and switched to using Fourth and Mayor, then do look again. This is very much recommended.
-- Ewan Spence, October 2011.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at