There are a number of different schools of thought about how useful Foursquare-like check-ins really are. Forecast, especially, is taking a very different approach from most of Foursquare’s competitors by emphasizing where you are going to be later in the day over just checking in at a location when you arrive. Now, with the latest version of its iPhone app (an update for the Android app is coming soon), the company is taking this concept a bit further. Instead of just telling people where you will be, the app will also automatically check you in when you arrive at a location (assuming you opt in for this service) and let your friends know that you have arrived.
So instead of having to remember to check in when you arrive somewhere – which is also the most awkward time to fiddle around with your phone – Forecast will now do this for you. You can use the app as a stand-alone product or connect it to Facebook and Foursquare to reach a wider group of your friends.
As the app already knows where you are going, Forecast can take a more conservative approach to checking where you are as you go through your day. Instead of constantly checking where you are and trying to check you in to places as you walk around, the app just checks your location periodically and once it notices that you have arrived at your forecasted location, it will just check you in. Given how unreliable location services can be in dense urban environments, this approach also helps to ensure that you are indeed checking in to the right place.
Currently, about 76% of Forecast users check in when they use the app. With the auto check-in feature, the company expects that number to get close to 100%.
This, as the company’s CEO and co-founder Rene Pinnell told me earlier this week, the app’s concept of “future tense check-ins” opens up a range of possibilities for the company in the long run. Once you have checked in somewhere, after all, chances are that you won’t change your plans anymore. When you tell the app where you will be in the future, though, those plans are still malleable and the right offer from the right advertiser, for example, still has the potential to make you go somewhere else instead.
Pinnell also told me that quite a few Forecast users look at the app as a calendaring service. This is another avenue for future development that the company wants to explore soon.