Back in November of last year, the location-based social event service Hot Potato launched at our Realtime CrunchUp. Today, they’ve taken what was a solid service, and made it a lot better with a number of upgrades.
First and foremost, there is a new iPhone application that just went live in the App Store. With a completely revamped user interface, the app makes it easier than ever to find and participate in events. Perhaps more importantly, it makes it really easy to create new events — and notably, the service has the nicest third-party Foursquare integration I’ve ever seen. When you click on the button to create an event, you can still manually enter a location, but if you happen to be around the venue, you can simply pick it from Foursquare’s list of venues with the click of a button. This drastically simplifies the event creation process since the venue metadata is already there.
This new app will be crucial for the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, which starts tomorrow. If you’ve been reading TechCrunch over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly seen that just about every location-based service has an app they’re unveiling. And another service based around planning events, Plancast, just launched their app this evening. But Hot Potato offers the best of both worlds as it allows you to both plan future events, and interact with ones currently taking place. The new app makes it very easy to chat about the event, and upload photos and videos.
And they’ve cleaned up the stream of information around these events. There is now a filter to show everyone commenting, or just your friends. There are also now number indicators to show unread items. And the check-in process has been simplified thanks to big green buttons that make it obvious.
Also new for SXSW is Twitter integration. On a case-by-case basis, Hot Potato will be pulling in tweets about certain events at SXSW, using a filter to make sure only relevant ones show up. You’ll be able to do things such as filter those tweets to show only those by people you actually follow, which will make them potentially much more meaningful to you. You can also reply to tweets thanks to integration of Twitter’s API. And you can share tweets from within the app that will show up as retweets on Twitter.
Another new features is Calendars — something which each Hot Potato user now has. Obviously, you can add the events you wish to be a part of to your calendar, but people you are friends with on the service can also add you to other events as well. The app also now features Push Notifications now (on top of revamped email notifications).
On top of the new app, Hot Potato has rolled out a completely revamped website with just about all of the same functionality of the new app (as well as the new look and feel). And at the highest level, Hot Potato finally has its own social graph, which can pull in friends from the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, your address book, etc.
And here’s something that should really help Hot Potato this week: each time someone checks-in to a SXSW event with Foursquare, that service will recommend they also join the event on Hot Potato. Clicking on the accompanying link provided in the Foursquare app with open the Hot Potato app and let them join the event with a click (if they have an account). As you might expect, you can also check-in to a venue on Foursquare within Hot Potato. With Foursquare likely to be one of the key apps used by conference goers, this cross promotion is simply huge.
On top of all of this, the service now has its own full API, so others can use and interact with their data.
Simply put, all these updates are full of win, and make a good app even better. And remarkably, they’ve managed to cram in all these new features while at the same time simplifying the overall experience.
Fine the new iPhone app here in the App Store. It’s a free download.