Loopt – The Social Network for Mobile

Friday, December 5, 2008
By Faisal Laljee

Now I know this is a financial blog, but I am the first to admit that I am an early adopter when it comes to technology, specially when its free and this particular technology is particularly impressive. Loopt is primarily an application for the iPhone and other mobile devices (currently over 100 mobile devices supported), that acts as a platform for social networking on the go. The concept is simple. People that are connected on Loopt can find each other on a map, and check out what their friends are up to. Some might find this to be scary, but you can always turn off location sharing selectively or completely. According to TechCrunch, Loopt has surpassed Facebook and MySpace in terms of the number of downloads on the iPhone. This however, can change day-to-day and currently, Loopt stands in 44th place, behind Facebook (20) and MySpace (42), pretty good considering the vast reach of these incumbents, their viral marketing effect and user base.

Click on the video link below to see Apple’s quick tour of Loopt for the iPhone.

Loopt also has a great website for those who are at home and have the mobile phone on the charging station. In fact, you can make journal entries, which can be made private, create a list of your favorite places, and even create and manage events.

One of the key features of Loopt that would appeal to those that frequent chat rooms is the Mix feature, which if enabled, allows you to create a public profile, which will match you to Loopt users in your area based on common interests without revealing your phone number or location. VentureBeat wrote a good piece on this feature a few months ago. In fact, Loopt has signed on music bands AC/DC, Bayside and 3OH!3 so you can follow them on tour or know what they are up to. This feature, called “Follow the Music” is above and beyond what sites like Twitter can do.

A couple of other interesting features of Loopt include its integration with Twitter and Facebook. You can enable an option to push your status update on Loopt to your Twitter and Facebook profiles. You can also create a RSS feed of your status update and add it as a widget to your blog or website, opening up your status to those outside your social circles. This is a particularly interesting feature because it allows public figures to tell the world what they are up to at any given time. Also, companies can use this as a way to generate PR buzz around a product launch or a speaking engagement. Once could argue that Twitter already has this feature, but Loopt uses location.

While mobile devices is Loopt’s biggest opportunity, it is also currently its primary hurdle. Even though Loopt supports over 100 phones, the user experience varies and is not as cool as the one on the iPhone. And even on the iPhone, it can’t run in the background so unless all your friends are actually using the Loopt application at the same time, you won’t see them on the map. This is more of an Apple flaw than anything else and one wonders when it will release an update to the OS that will allow multiple apps to run simutaneously.

I do want to tie this post back to the theme of this blog. How can one make money from this? Well indirectly, Apple and GPS enabled mobile device manufacturers like Research in Motion stand to benefit a good deal from this. It will only enhance their consumer experience.

On a side note, why wouldn’t Facebook, Google or Microsoft be interested in acquiring Loopt? Currently, the number of Loopt users is not publicly available, however, a successful acquisition is one which is completed before the true potential of the target has been realized. I think Loopt is an innovative tool and a great examples of things to come.

– Faisal Laljee

Related Links:
Download Loopt for iPhone here.

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2 Responses to “Loopt – The Social Network for Mobile”

  1. Connie

    Hi Faisal,

    I think the growth of location base applications is going to be very big and make phones a more useful tool. But for those who want location services without joining a social network – try zhiing.com.
    zhiing allows you to send your location via the iPhone or a web browser without joining anything and it’s free.

    I’m getting ready to take a road trip across the country in January and I am going to use zhiing to plan out my trip – it’s 4 steps quicker than Map Quest which you cannot get on your phone like the the zhiing application.

    I’m looking forward to what else will develop with LBS applications.

    Connie

    #619
  2. Grant

    Faisal, great post. The location based service market is young and developing quickly. The companies which are participating are many and varied. Most base their service on some form of social networking which requires users to create accounts and invite friends like facebook. To create participation many offer a voyeuristic ability to peak in on people who are close to you using the app. From my experience this is fun for a while but where’s off quickly.

    One unique and very new application is Zhiing. Zhiing is available for iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian platforms. Zhiing is more like email and text messaging but it allows you to attach your current location. When receiving a zhiing that location is received as a dynamic map with turn by turn directions. There’s also a browser add-on which populates all addresses in the browser with window with a small icon. Clicking on the icon lets you send that location straight to your phone.

    This is great for sending yourself spots you’re heading to later…Like an out of town hotel, restaurant, client office, etc.

    Worth a look if you’re an early adopter.

    #620

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