Foursquare has released Swarm, a new smartphone app designed to replace the geolocation-based social aspects of the New York City start-up's original service.
Earlier this month, Foursquare announced that it would be splitting its services into two apps: Foursquare for discovering places, and Swarm for checking in and keeping up with what your friends are up to.
The company will be going through a big change this year, and the first part of the transition involves the introduction of Swarm, which arrived on Thursday for Apple iOS and Android devices. A Windows Phone version is also slated for release later this summer.
Swarm "is the fastest way to keep up and meet up with your friends. With Swarm, you can easily see who’s out nearby and who wants to hang out later," Foursquare said in the description of its new app.
Here are the five major features in the new app that you should know about:
1. A new kind of mayorship
A few years back, Foursquare was all the rage because of its mayor feature. Users who checked into places most often were rewarded by being crowned the mayor of that location. The feature made Foursquare very addicting for some who would compete against their friends to become mayor of their favorite bar, restaurant or coffee shop.
But because of the growth Foursquare has experienced, the startup said it has become nearly impossible to unseat mayors at some locations because users must compete with everyone else who is on the service.
To fix that problem, Foursquare said Swarm users will only compete for mayorships against their friends. That means places will have multiple mayors, but Foursquare hopes this will make competing for mayorships fun again.
2. Stickers, but no badges
With Swarm, Foursquare will be introducing a new feature called Stickers. When users check in, they are given the option to include a sticker with their post "to quickly express how you feel or what you're doing," Foursquare said.
Users will start out with a few stickers, but they'll be able to unlock more based on the places where they check in.
In a way, stickers are the consolation price for Swarm's exclusion of badges, one of Foursquare's beloved features. On Foursquare, users could unlock badges by checking into certain places (for example, checking into a graduation would give you the "Hats Off" badge).
But loyal users fret not: A new version of the badges feature will be introduced when the company rolls out the new version of the Foursquare app this summer.
3. Make plans
Foursquare hopes Swarm will help users make plans together, and the way it intends to do that is with a feature called, you guessed it, "plans."
In this portion of the app, users can publish posts visible to friends who are the same city. This could be used to ask if anyone is up for a movie or to ask if there's anything happening that day.
"There’s no invite list, and you can leave it as open-ended as you want (our favorite plan during testing was 'beer?' It got 17 replies.)," Foursquare said.
Plans is the second tab from the right at the bottom of the app.
4. Search your past
Foursquare is making it easy for users to look at the places where they've been by adding a new search feature.
With this feature, users can look up a city, a person or a type of places and Swarm will show them any relevant results.
The search feature can be found on users' profile pages.
5. Neighborhood sharing
Perhaps the most ambitious new feature in Swarm is "Neighborhood sharing."
By turning this feature on, your friends will be able to see when you go into the same neighborhood that they're in. This also works in reverse. Anytime a friend turns this feature on and steps into the same neighborhood you're in, you'll be able to see that.
Foursquare has included this feature as part of its mission to spark meet-ups among friends, but you may want to think about whether you want this feature turned on.
Neighborhood sharing will alert some of your friends about the neighborhood you are in, whether you check in or not. And because this feature requires your smartphone's GPS to be turned on at all times, it will reduce your device's battery life.
Users can turn off the feature by tapping on either of the two tabs on the left of the bottom navigation bar. Once there, swipe right at the top of the screen. This should turn the top bar from orange into gray, indicating the feature is off.