In addition to the updated “Explore” feature that rolled out to Foursquare’s Android and iPhone applications this week, the social discovery service also added a special feature to its Android app that sort of flew under the radar: support for NFC.
NFC, or near field communication, allows devices to exchange data over short distances, typically with a wave or a tap. In Foursquare’s Android update, NFC support has been added for the app’s Venue, Lists and Me pages.
On Android, NFC support has been rebranded for marketing purposes, and is called “Android Beam.” The touch-to-share functionality lets NFC-enabled Android phones share information between each other, including contacts, web pages, and videos, for example. Any Android developer can also use the NFC APIs provided by the mobile operating system to add specialized NFC actions to their own apps.
With the Foursquare update, Android 4.0 users with NFC phones can now share their lists and the venues they’ve visited with a friend just by tapping phones. Users can now tap phones to initiate friend requests or tap their phone against an NFC tag or poster to check in.
Unfortunately, the functionality is currently limited to phones that have both an NFC chip built in and run Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). At this point, that means the Galaxy Nexus is pretty much your only option. (But that’s why you got that phone, right? You wanted to use the latest technology first. Well, here you go.)
The question remaining is why would Foursquare bother to push out an update that impacts such a small niche of the current Android user base?
In an Untether.tv interview with Holger Luedorf, VP of Mobile and International at Foursquare, he talked about why Foursquare added NFC to its app.
“The good news is the technology is already there,” he says. Plus,”going forward, some of the other platforms will be NFC-enabled.” (Please mean iOS!)
But it’s also about making the Android experience the best for its users, Luedorf said.
“The user experience is great. You just hold your phone against the tap [point]. The checkin screen automatically pops up with the right venue. You’re basically shaving very valuable seconds off the checkin process,” he says.
“We try to leverage the native experiences and APIs that are available through the platform as those usually drive the best user experience,” Luedorf continued. “We’re trying to leverage this because we feel that pinpointing someone down to a location through an NFC chip definitely has some value.”
Hat tip: NFCWorld