With a new update to the Google Maps app, Android users will no longer have to rely on third-party apps like Foursquare to do their checking in.
Starting today with the new Google Maps 5.1 update, Google has integrated check-ins into Google Latitude, the location-tracking feature of Maps. Before, Latitude let you see where your friends were on a map, but it was just their GPS coordinates. You’d see your friend’s photos and little arrows pointing to their location, but that was about it. Now, you can tag your location in addition to sharing its coordinates with your friends, so they know exactly where you are.
So, sounds exactly like foursquare, right? To set itself apart, Google has also added some nifty features that help distinguish the new Latitude from other location services like foursquare and Facebook Places. Because Latitude auto-detects your location while its running, you can use it to check yourself in to a set list of places automatically. Want to let your friends know when you’re at your usual coffee shop but don’t want to check in every day? Just set the app to automatically check you in and out whenever you enter and leave the place. It’s that easy. Like Google said on their official blog post, “You can talk to friends or finish your bagel without fumbling with your phone.”
Latitude check-in also integrates beautifully with Google Maps. If you’re checking out where your friend is and see them on the map checked insomewhere, just tap their bubble to pull up the Google Places page for where they are. There, you can find more information about the place including address, hours, and even menus and reviews. See your friend at a restaurant you like? Text them some meal suggestions!
Of course, with all this automatic location sharing comes some privacy concerns–you wouldn’t want to broadcast where you are every second of the day to the whole world. It’s easy to configure how you want Latitude to share your information so you can make sure you’re only sharing what you want with who you want.
First of all, checking in is 100% opt-in. You don’t have to check in if you don’t want to, and you’re free to use all of Google Maps and Google Latitude’s features without the check-in feature. If you do decide to check in, you can opt to share that information with yourself, only your Latitude friends (the people you are following), or make them public on your Google profile. You can enable or disable automatic checking in as well, and and it looks like Google is planning to make your check-in history available at google.com/latitude from a desktop browser.
With the recent overload of location apps, it’s going to be the ones that are the easiest to use that become the most popular. Latitude check in features can be automatic, use a Google Maps interface that every Android user is already familiar with, and doesn’t require going back and forth between multiple apps. With a few more updates, Latitude could quickly make foursquare yesterday’s check-in.