Today, the company is starting a gradual roll out of a new version of the Foursquare app for Android that marks its biggest move into a “post-check-in” experience yet: A feature that will ping phones with personalized recommendations based on a user’s targeted physical location, without needing them to check in at all.
With the new Foursquare, when you walk into a cafe you’ve never visited before, it may buzz your phone to let you know that people who visit there rave about the breakfast burritos. In a bar, you might be pinged with a tip that you don’t need to put quarters in the pinball machine to use it, because it’s broken (very sneaky.) And, in line with Foursquare’s recent focus on generating revenue, you might also get a buzz on your phone about merchant promotions — though Foursquare founder and CEO Dennis Crowley vows that “you won’t see a lot of that.”
It’s a new try at the same type of function provided by the the opt-in “Radar” feature that Foursquare started rolling out on iOS to less than stellar results back in 2011. In an interview this week, Dennis Crowley said that while this type of experience has always been Foursquare’s ultimate goal, Radar suffered by being a bit ahead of its time:
“Radar was supposed to represent the vision of the company: A service that, as you walk around the city and the world, lets you know things you wouldn’t have known otherwise. But the [mobile phone] battery life wasn’t there, geo-fencing technology wasn’t sophisticated enough, and on our end we didn’t always have enough data. Over the last 10 months or so, we’ve been working on making this happen again, with devices we have now.”
The new and improved push recommendation feature purportedly only increases battery drain by about 0.7 percent per hour — or, “the equivalent of about a 20-minute game of Angry Birds” over the course of a day.
The new version of Foursquare with passive notifications is starting to roll out very slowly, and on Android first — around 2,000 Foursquare users on Android will be given access today. This is apparently taking advantage of new developer tools released by Google this past May that allow apps to gradually deploy new apps to alpha and beta users on the Android platform. An iOS rollout will follow in the months ahead — it seems that Foursquare may be waiting to launch it with the upcoming iOS 7 operating system.
Crowley says that if all goes well, the new Foursquare will be launched to all users on all platforms by the year’s end. He says that the messages will be a mix of user-generated recommendations and promotions from locations, and that users will be able to dial up for dial down the number of push notifications they receive, depending on their preferences.
But what’s clear is that this kind of experience is the future of what Foursquare will be. “There’s no product name for it this time. It’s not ‘Radar.’ We had an internal codename, but now, this is just Foursquare.”