Loopt is a location-aware app that allows you to share status updates, including your current whereabouts, with selected contacts, and via Twitter and Facebook. It also displays nearby events, businesses (and sometimes coupons), and friends. The interface, composed of eight finger-friendly soft keys, is simple and straightforward to use, but the location accuracy is not always very precise. I also encountered a few snags with initial setup of the service.
Loopt relies on text messaging for its setup and operation. It associates with a specific phone; that is, you can't, for example, use a Google Voice or other number. That turned out to be a problem when I tried to set up the app on my first test phone, a Motorola Droid on the Verizon network. I received an error message informing me that premium messaging was not enabled on the phone's account--but then, oddly, I received a text message from Loopt with a "confirmation" hyperlink. Unfortunately, that link took me to a Web page that told me an error had occurred and invited me to please try again. Despite repeated attempts on my part, I never did succeed in pairing the Droid with the Loopt service. If you encounter a similar problem, you might want to give the similar Foursquare app a try, instead--you can register a Foursquare account with just an e-mail address.
I did, however, succeed in pairing Loopt with the second test phone, an EVO 4G on the Sprint network. The text-message activation went off without a hitch, and I proceeded to link Loopt to my Twitter account. Less simple is linking your Facebook account--to do that, you must leave the Loopt app and visit Loopt in a desktop Web browser. Once that is done, Loopt updates also post to Twitter and Facebook. (Of course, you can also use Loopt without linking it to Twitter or Facebook if you prefer.)
I began to explore the Places button. Places provides a list view (you can toggle to a map if you wish) of restaurants and other businesses along with their approximate distance from you. By default, Places casts a very wide (and not very useful) net with a radius of 25 miles. You can adjust it down to as little as a one-mile radius--a much more reasonable distance in most situations.
Clicking on a Place takes you to Place Details, which puts a wealth of information at your fingertips. You can check in (post a status update with the Place location attached), call the Place with your phone, navigate to it with Google Maps, go to the Place's Website, share it by e-mail, "like" or "dislike" it, read reviews on CitySearch, or leave a public "tip" on Loopt for others to read. Some participating businesses even offer electronic coupons to provide an incentive to visit.
The Events button is very similar to Places, except that it tells you what's going on nearby. This is an interesting feature with a lot of promise. If you have ever asked the question, "what is there to do around here?" then you will appreciate this app.
The Friends button shows you where your Loopt friends are and what they have to say about it. Each Loopt user has the option to turn their visibility on and off--either to specific individuals or to everyone--so privacy is maintained. The Invite button gives you a way to bring your friends into Loopt, either by e-mail or text message.
The Check In button lets you post status updates with your current location (or you can choose not to include your location if you wish). You can take a photo and attach it as well. Check In gives you a list of nearby Places (such as a bar or restaurant) you can choose, or specify your own place.
The Lately button shows you a timeline of your Check Ins. It's kind of interesting to look at. If you are like me, you may be a bit dismayed to see how little you stray from your daily routine. Time to check out Events and break out of the rut!
The Map button is self-explanatory. The Settings button lets you adjust your privacy and other settings.
Although Loopt has a lot of potential, it has one big problem: The app simply did not do a good job of finding my precise location. And this is definitely an issue with Loopt, not with the EVO 4G. By comparison, Google Maps was spot-on with my location, where Loopt was often several blocks off. Loopt has an option in Settings to auto-update your location (but that's a major battery drain); alternatively, you can just update your location when you open the app. However, in my tests Loopt often failed to update my location when I opened it. It thought I was still in Oakland when in fact I was in San Francisco. Other users left comments in the Android Market complaining of similar inaccuracy, so this doesn't seem to be an isolated issue.
You can manually specify your location, but the main draw of a location-aware app is, well, its location-awareness. Hopefully, this problem will be remedied in future updates, because this is otherwise a well-crafted app with more features than its competitor Foursquare. But the difficulty of registering Loopt on some phones, combined with its iffy location abilities, prevents me from recommending it over Foursquare at this time.
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