Loopt or Twinkle

August 27, 2008

in general

I tried out Loopt early this week because a friend said I should. Actually he said Loopt recently got $8m in funding. So I went to Loopt.com hit the iPhone screen and before I knew it I had it on my iPhone. I didn’t read anything about it. Just heard it was the latest smart thing in iPhone / social networking tools. I’m going to be upfront now. I don’t get it. I’m going to tell you why and then go back and be a little more polite because reading a few things now as I start to write a post I realize they aren’t trying to do what I want.

How do you get started on Loopt or Twinkle? All thoughts relates to the iPhone

Loopt. You go to the iTunes App or reach it via Loopt. It downloads and installs like any iPhone app. Seems simple enough. Then you get asked for information. I’m just showing you one screen here. Loopt’s iPhone registration Guide lists a total of 18 steps to get up and running. Naturally they want your name and number, birthdate, access to your location etc. There’s a big contract in there too. Then it launches and you have “Zero” buddies. You can enable Twitter, Facebook and RSS status updates. If you are Facebook centric what is the difference between Loopt? and the Facebook app? Current location? Abilility to call and SMS?

Twinkle. Same process you download Twinkle from the iTunes store. Twinkle now asks for more information too. I don’t have the same number of steps. I know it is less. I already have it loaded. What does the latest version of Twinkle ask for. 1)an email address and 2)twitterID and password. Twinkle creates a Tapulous account for you. Twinkle is designed to work with Twitter. Like Loopt the app asks to have access to your location information.

Twinkle asks for less and is easier to set up. I personally don’t like the need to provide my email. We’ll come to how Loopt uses my number shortly.

Adding Buddies / Getting Started.

In Loopt you start with zero buddies. That sucks. So having two iPhones to test on I quickly added my first buddy. Loopt asked me for their phone number. So I put it in. Two seconds later the following message arrived.

StuartH 925-XXX-YYYY (my phone number) Join my group of Loopt friends. Go https://loopt etc… Reply STOP to stop Loopt msgs.

WOW! I had no idea it was going to reveal my phone number! In fact everytime I want use Loopt to connect with any of my friends I have to start by adding their number. This is a really high cost of entry. Now if I really love Loopt it will take me direct to my contact list and I can start adding people and sending them these message. So.. how many do you think I will send them too? If I send them what’s the benefit? Will they do status updates?

Twinkle: Stark comparison assuming you already use Twitter. However, even if you don’t it’s pretty quick to build a buddylist. There’s the same barrier to providing status updates. Assuming you have Twitter buddies Twinkle is instantly interesting. More importantly it uses the public feed around you to provide an instant list of the “proximity buddies” nearby. These aren’t likely to be people you know and there may not be that many of them yet. Their recent updates may also be a little stale. Point is Twinkle provides an instant sense of action. When I used Twinkle a few days back I got answers to my hamburger question from all over the world and locally from a tweeter in San Carlos.

Status Updates:
I began merging into status updates above. It’s a big basic difference here. I can put status updates into Loopt but if I don’t on send them for Twitter I’m not really sure who they are for. They are just generic. Thus they mimic Facebook status changes more than Twitter updates. I sent this one today and attached a pictures. What Loopt sent into Twitter was a map. Twinkle sends my coordinates. It just lacks the map at the moment. Although I see no real reason why it can’t pop open a map. Well there may be good reason to make it a little less easy. I’d prefer to travel in a range.. eg within 1/2 a mile 1 mile than know that someone can see my exact coordinates.

And this is the fundamental difference between these two apps. Loopt tells the world exactly where you are and if you do status updates that may appear in Twitter. Twinkle makes it less obvious at least to me “exactly” where I am versus anyone else. That’s cool I can take an interest in those that are in my proximity without feeling creepy.

In a Loopt world only those you have absolutely shared your phone number with can reach you. This seems like a small sample and those I’d most like to share with are likely to be close to where I think they should be. I don’t think I either finding them is all that difficult.

So what do I see here?
In Loopt I see a system that is designed to integrate location and a basic form of status by rejiggling my address book. But I won’t go to it or my address book very often. I also don’t see that it will be more productive than Facebook or a TwitterApp to go and find out what’s up with my friends.

In Twinkle I get the potential ambient intimacy of all of my friends updating. Or I can go further. All the people I follow. I simply follow interesting people. Some of the stuff is crap, I write it too. But I do feel more connected and more aware being in this stream of happening. And I get the breaking news in Twitter one way or another every time. I’m now following more people on Twitter than I have in my mobile address book. I expect in a year it will be five times that amount assuming Twitter doesn’t limit me.

What did I learn from a quick review of the Press and Blogs?

Turns out Loopt is more focused on enabling the advertising around where you are. I presume that is passive rather than SMS to my phone or even calls. DId I give my number out? I didn’t read the fine print. Perhaps I should have. I’ve read CNET and Techcrunch (always informative) and Venturebeat who also tag other emerging competitors like Pelagio. We already knew that huge investments have been pouring into these startups. No one can be sure who will win.

So what’s the problem?

Most of these solutions are focused on a number based world, controlled profiles and structured ways of interacting. That’s not really mobile social and not how we interact.

Loopt isn’t designed to let me communicate with people I don’t know that well that are in my proximity. Twinkle has real potential to let me communicate with people in my vicinity but no way to connect without lots of tweets going back and forth. Plus they have to follow me before I can send a direct message. So revealing my true phone number makes connections hard or impossible.

I may want access to offers. Loopt seems to be going in that direction. I would like offers made to me in context. Eg Hungry, need Gas, Meetup, etc. Twinkle is much closer to solving that. As these are local I also want personal offers not billboards. A personal offer from the maitre d to come to his restaurant with an attached menu card may well be looked on very favorably. That is just where Phweet and Twinkle merge very successfully. Actually any twitter client with location could work for that matter. It also illustrates an important point. When the world is full of offers you will want control, you won’t want to share you numbers you want more privacy, and you will will want methods to manage your access. You also won’t want to miss out on what it might offer.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andy August 28, 2008 at 1:07 am

I think that Location Based Services are game changing. At the same time, LBS is still at version .5, not even 1.0 yet. The main points you make I agree with.

Applications need to be written so that the UI is intuitive, enjoyable out of the gate, and let the user dictate how it works for them.

I personally see value in being able to track ‘friends’ at a close proximity. I might however want only REAL friends and family to track me that way, while ‘warm’ friends, I might want to be location aware 1 mile or more…again, give the user choice.

Ultimately (see my blog post on LBS which was written long before Twitter existed)the one who will own this space will need to allow me to interact with all my friends whether they be facebook,twitter,linkedin – and it will need to let me interact how I want to, whether via a Phweet, an IM, or a Tweet.

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