Mar 06 AT 3:34 AM Clark Wimberly 27 Comments

Gowalla 1.0 finally hits the Android Market. Nerds, bar goers rejoice

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We’ve been following Gowalla for some time now. And judging by the funding they’ve picked up and how quickly they are making progress we can’t be the only ones. For months now Gowalla has been available on Android via a webapp at m.gowalla.com. Starting today (just in time for SXSW) a full blown native app is available in the Android Market. Does the new app cut the mustard? Is it worth switching to? (Hint: yes, download it now).

Gowalla is a location-based game that allows users to check in from various locations (or create the location if it doesn’t exist). Checking in at locations will give you a stamp and certain combinations of check-ins will unlock pins (icons with a silly theme/title). Along with locations (like restaurants, bars, retail locations, etc) there are trips, multi-location stops that earn you a pin. There are featured trips created by the Gowalla team and user-created trips that can be saved and shared among friends.

Gowalla users can follow each other and easily keep track of their friends activity in one stream. Which is really the main point of Gowalla: knowing where your friends are, where they’ve been, and what they’ve been up to.

My Gowalla passport

One area Gowalla really shines is design. The entire look and feel shows an amazing level of polish. There is a great set of default location icons and an ever growing even cooler set of featured location icons. When a location is happenin’ enough to deserve it’s own icon Gowalla doesn’t disappoint. I’m not sure why the design nerd in me gets such a kick out of shiny icons but I won’t fight it. I’ll just keep collecting.

Recently Gowalla has even been dropping real life items onto the map, allowing users to score freebies when checking into locations. For the upcoming Gowalla SXSW party, the only guaranteed way to get in is by finding a VIP ticket in the wild around Austin. Which means I’ll most likely be spending a few shameful hours driving around downtown looking for a VIP pass (unless someone from Gowalla wants to put me on the list. See how shameful?)

The native app seems to have an easier time with location data than I used to get in the webapp. I’ve been using the Gowalla beta for weeks now and the Market version seems to be just as snappy. The native app also seems to have more details on the locations and trips (like maps, showing who’s completed the trip, etc) which makes for a more complete browsing experience. The app’s also got a way to comb your existing social networks for contacts which makes adding users a breeze.

To go along with the native Android app, iPhone app, AND webapp, Gowalla recently launched a redesigned desktop site that’s looking better than ever. All the data from the app is flawlessly translated into a desktop browser for use when away from your device.

Months back I used Foursquare. Then for a few weeks I was using Foursquare and the Gowalla webapp. After a while I dropped Foursquare all together. Gowalla just continues to impress me. And they’re located here in Austin which instantly wins them a couple points.

Check the gallery for a full selection of screens from the new app then head to the Market or scan the QR above to download Gowalla for yourself.

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Note: If you’re upgrading from the beta, it’s been recommended that before you install the Market version you first remove the beta.

UPDATE: Whoops, looks like you can’t create a location in the native app yet. So far I’ve never needed to create a location but I could see that being really annoying if you were in a less active area. I’m sure it’s on their list of things to do.

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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