Look at all the happy diners. Via Thinkstock.
Foursquare has recently gone through a bit of an identity crisis. In May it broke off its main feature — which let you rack up points and badges by checking in to different locations — to a separate app named Swarm. The company announced that Foursquare would soon become a recommendations app like Yelp, without the check-in capability or gameplay-like features.
This ruffled the feathers of many longtime fans who’d worked hard for their mayorships and virtual trinkets. They started protests to “kill Swarm” and then grudgingly switched to Swarm while awaiting the identity of the new Foursquare.
Well, here it is: The new Foursquare finally arrived Wednesday morning. It’s not the classic check-in app we grew to love and cherish; instead, its revamped search options make it a powerhouse of personal suggestions. It surveys your tastes and combines that with the recommendations of friends and companies you follow to create a comprehensive guide to the area around you, wherever you go. Its discovery tools range from dish recommendations at a bar you just happened upon to restaurants to consider for your next fancy night out.
Here’s a quick rundown of its new, useful features.
When you download the update, you’ll immediately be shown a disclaimer. This is a reminder that Foursquare’s core function — the ability to rack up badges and mayorships by checking in to the places you visit — has now been moved to Swarm. Again, this was not a popular decision, as it requires you to switch between apps anytime you want to make it known that you’re at a place.
Once you’ve logged in and allowed the app to access your location, you’ll be asked to identify your tastes from a screen full of word bubbles. These are little category tags that Foursquare has populated to better characterize restaurants and the like. They range from the uber-general (“Good service”) to the very specific (“foie gras”). Tap whichever ones make your stomach grumble. They’ll turn pink and be automatically added to your profile.
After that, you’ll be set free in the new app. Here are some cool features you should check out:
Personalized suggestions, everywhere you go
As you tell Foursquare your favorite things, it processes those keywords into its database and spits out suggestions for places around you. In the Find a Place section of the app (shown at the bottom of the screen), you can swipe through a category bar, which adjusts your search by certain categories like “Brunch” or “Nightlife.”
Below that is a section that populates Your tastes nearby. This finds any restaurant that fits one of the “tastes” you’ve picked out and assigned to your profile. Below that are places that have been visited/recommended by your friends or other experts on Foursquare.
Get recommendations for dishes or specials
The Here section of the app recognizes your location and immediately offers you a list of tips related to the establishment.
Above, there’s an option to leave a tip or check in yourself. Below are all the tips from people who’ve been there. These can range from dish recommendations to warnings about long lines. Either way, it’s a nice point of guidance if you’ve just popped into a place you’ve never heard of before or are having trouble deciding what you want on a menu.
Leaving tips will earn you “expertise”
If you’re a Foursquare veteran, all your past check-ins have not been lost. Rather, they’ve been filtered into your profile in an entirely separate section called Tips.
This section seems to be inspired by the former app’s Badges, as it will reward you with areas of expertise every time you leave a tip. The Tips section is separated into four different feeds: Staff Picks from the Foursquare staff (which could, I imagine, offer sponsored content soon); the accounts you’re Following; Your Tastes, which are suggested locations based on the selections you’ve made; and Popular, which is whatever’s poppin’ nearby.
To leave a tip, tap the scroll/pen icon in the upper-right corner.
You’ll be shown all the places you’ve logged into. You can swipe through and offer your own take with a sentence or two.
Or, if you’re not in the mood to put in that effort, you can tap an option below that lets you quickly rate the places you’ve been.
Check-ins from social accounts will guide recommendations
Sync your Foursquare profile with your other social media accounts by tapping the F symbol in the upper-right corner of the screen.
There you can add more tastes, or tap Follow People.
From here, you can choose to link your contact list, your Facebook, your Twitter, and your Instagram accounts. It’ll identify everyone who’s on Foursquare, and you can follow them. The places your friends have visited or rated highly will show up at the top of your search results.
Those are the basics. Go forth and Foursquare. The result will likely mean you consume something delicious at a restaurant nearby. Just don’t expect to virtually “check in” there without tapping over to that other app.
Download Foursquare for Android or iOS here.