Monday, September 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm.

It’s not enough to just be a “location app”… You actually have to do something

Checking in with the surviving check-in apps, they’re all trying to be “social city guides” now:

  • Foursquare has arguably won the check-in race but must keep building on top of it. Has recently focused on new “Explore” tool and Lists feature. Is also trying to build up photo database. It helps to have strongest check-in data to build social recommendations, the way Google’s search dominance helps build a better search engine. (Avg. iTunes rank: ~20 in social networking.)
  • Gowalla is now focusing on trying to be a travel guide, with partners including Disney and National Geographic. The company has always had solid graphic design, but needs many more users for the social aspects to work. Reserving judgment on the new city guides until I’ve seen them. (Avg. iTunes rank: ~165 in social networking.)
  • Loopt is focusing on “Qs,” or mobile Q&A. In late August, it boasted 50,000 Qs answered, and has since expanded the feature nationwide on iOS devices. (And Loopt itself just launched internationally at the end of August.) In New York, however, the few Qs I see are low-quality. Give location pioneer Sam Altman credit for trying a lot of ideas over the years, from original “friends on a map” concept to location-based flirting, but not sure Qs will be the magic formula. (Avg. iTunes rank: ~180 in social networking.)

Remember: Location isn’t a product, it’s a feature. The apps that use it well — Instagram, Seamless, Google Maps, etc. — realize this. Facebook realizes this, which is why it’s winding down its lame Foursquare knockoff, Facebook Places, in order to make location a part of every Facebook update.

Now let’s see if the companies that put location apps on the map can build something great on top of it.

Also: How Apple can fix iAd