Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
iPhone Integration Rating:
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Swarm is the latest app by the developers behind Foursquare. Depending on who's asked, this would probably sound extremely interesting or not interesting at all. In my experience there are smartphone users that constantly use Foursquare, and those that don't see the appeal at all, with very few people landing somewhere in the middle. No matter what people think of Foursquare though, the platform has set itself up to make some big changes to its location-based social network, and Swarm is its first step.
The idea of Swarm seems to have emerged because Foursquare serves two primary purposes: to find cool new places nearby and to check out what others are doing. Rather than continuing an app that has to juggle these two tasks, Foursquare will be updated to dedicate itself to finding places, while Swarm's primary function is to help users find each other. Although the initial idea of having to manage two apps instead of one seems cumbersome, Swarm feels like a cleaner and easier-to-manage experience than Foursquare ever did as a result of its specialization.
When users open up Swarm, they are greeted with a feed of their friends list, which is conveniently organized by their distance from the user's current location. Even if friends aren't checking in to places, occasional GPS updates let users know the general area where their friends are. Every user of the app can toggle these updates on or off while still being able to check in to and share particular places, and even push them to Facebook or Twitter if they'd like. In addition, Swarm adds a bunch of other features like built-in buttons to call or text friends, the ability to throw out plans to anyone nearby, and stickers, which will be apparently replacing badges in the near future.
The whole experience of Swarm is very pleasant overall. It's nice to be able to have a purely social version of Foursquare that lets users tell each other where they are and what they're doing, all while avoiding feeling as creepy as Apple's Find My Friends. After using Swarm for a bit, the division between it and Foursquare makes a lot of sense to me, since I primarily only use Foursquare to check in and share my location anyway. It feels nice to have an app that is less cluttered up with telling me where I should go and what I should get when all I want to say is "here I am."
Of course, Swarm does have some drawbacks. As mentioned previously, badges and other gamification elements (which many enjoy) don't exist in this app and will soon be removed from Foursquare entirely, although the sticker unlocks seem to provide some consolation. In addition, I've found that Swarm has behaved strangely when checking into specific events at a venue, specifically when trying to share said event on another social media platform.
Beyond these few knocks, however, Swarm seems like a logical next step for Foursquare. Anyone invested in continuing their presence on Foursquare will most likely need to pick up this app to keep up with their friends list. Thankfully the app itself is pretty great, and in some ways is better than the current Foursquare experience. Even though it seems the "good old days" of mayorships and badges are gone, Swarm is a quality app worth checking out.