Mar 06 AT 3:34 AM Clark Wimberly 27 Comments

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


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 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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  • stoodi

    Ok, design is ok, but basic functionality like “add spot” ? I can’t see this :(

  • http://Website Todd

    “..Ok, design is ok, but basic functionality like “add spot” ? I can’t see this :( ”

    Everyone needs to *participate* in the development of Gowalla’s Android app! If its buggy, or you want a feature go here and interact directly with the Gowalla Engineers:

    • Nikolay Kolev

      Todd, everybody was telling them that we need the ability to add spots, so, we’ve been participating! It’s a total waste of time to use this app as basically you’re gonna use it only when you know for sure that the spot you’re checking in exists already. Otherwise, you have to close the app, launch the browser, click on the bookmark, log in, add the spot there, check in, and so on. foursquare Android app was fully-featured since day 1. It wasn’t as pretty as the iPhone one, but it worked alright.

      • Clark Wimberly

        I could be wrong but I don’t think the Foursquare app has been fully featured since day one. For a long time it was only available to a couple dozen cities. And you couldn’t create spots (unless I just missed it).

        That was months ago though, haven’t touched it since.

        • Nikolay Kolev

          The foursquare service was limited to certain cities, not just the Android app. As far as I remember, adding venues was available since day one. At the end, adding a venue is not hard to implement and I don’t understand why Gowalla chose not to implement it.

          • Clark Wimberly

            Well if you compare lack of the ‘add spot’ button to lack of whole cities, seems like Gowalla would still come out ahead.

      • Beau

        I’m not seeing the ability to add in the web app either, what am I missing?

        • Taylor Wimberly

          Go to the Spots tab. It should be at the bottom of the page. It says Create New Spot.

  • Beau

    Am I missing the “add spot” button or is it just not in the app?

  • http://Website Jack

    Yeah, I’m in Roanoke, VA and find myself having to create lots of locations. I just use the webapp in that case.

    The only gripe I’ve got so far about the app is that it (still, like the beta) turns on Wifi if you don’t have it on. This is irritating when you don’t want wifi enabled.

    Also, and this isn’t limited to just the Android App, but I’d like to be able to see something telling me “why” i have earned certain pins. That would be cool.

  • http://Website Dylan Andersen

    The application is great; however, the automatic force of WiFi “on” state is awful. After manually turning WiFi off, a launch of the application will push it on and connect to a hotspot. Same with GPS. Kind of frustrating that it can’t use cell triangulation.

    • http://Website rolex

      Cell triangulation will not give you your exact location, it can be off by miles. people are quick to complain when they are ignorant to the facts.

      • http://Website Inquisitor

        GPS is a nuisance. WiFi is unacceptable. Even though GPS makes it a lot better, it’s still not okay to force on these battery-draining services.

  • MattDemers

    I’ve been using Foursquare for a couple weeks, and here in Toronto the benefits of using either system aren’t exactly present. I don’t know of any bars that offer rewards yet; me and my friends just use it for bragging rights.

  • http://n/a Brian Holst

    Can anyone give me their thoughts on Foursquare vs. Gowalla? I’ve never used either of these, and I’d like to play around with the concept on my Nexus One (aka sexy nexy).

    I was looking through the market reviews and they’re killing this over forced WiFi usage. I too am forced to agree. I always kill WiFi on my phone once I leave home/school/a friend’s pad. Having the phone constantly search for networks is a real deterrent to this app, for me. The GPS doesn’t seem worth complaining about, though–it’s a map-based app! Triangulation via cell tower just isn’t the same, especially with T-Mo.

    • MattDemers

      Eh. I usually kill the app once I’ve checked in, then hit “refresh” (for Foursquare, anyways) to bring up a new list of nearby venues. Saves my data and my battery.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      I suggest trying both. They are both fun games to play and each one is in a growth stage. We are going to see a lot of new features added to each service.

      Foursquare has more users right now and clients for all the major mobile OS. Gowalla is still working on BB and palmOS.

  • http://Website John Barker

    The add a location will probably show up in an update in a day or two. If I had to guess, it was either release early and begin to let people use it as-is and push another update in a few days (I guarantee it’ll hit before SXSW) or just wait another week and release a v1 that includes place addition.

    It’s really 6-in-1 half-dozen in another however you look at it.

  • Stefan

    It’s more attactive than Foursquare that’s for sure. But the ability to add spots is a feature that would be more conveinant to have. Not all of us live in big cities. So I will stick with Foursquare until Gowalla adds this feature.

  • http://Website newspeak

    I really hope they put in a add location feature to the app because this is just completely unusable….i remember seeing an interview with the founder and he was like we want to make sure we come out with a decent app for android …not sure how omitting that feature constitutes a complete product

    then again free if free i guess

  • Ryo

    Wll to make it short, the Gowalla-app is not even worth installing it.
    You can’t create new spots, you can’t place objects, it’s slow and uses loads of battery. In addition, it swichtes on Wifi, which is not a good thing in some places.
    It’s unusable, and I consider this an alpha-release. But it’s just ridiculous that alle the above functions are available on the iPhone version.

    So for Gowalla, Android-users are 2nd class users? It’s offending, to bring out such a client as a release. Unbelievable.

    I’ll stick with foursquare, which treat Android users like iPhone users and having a robust and good app, which is working. And you can create new venues.

    Foursquare : Gowalla 1:0

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  • Jef Cashless

    I have to second everything that Ryo is saying. I’m extremely disappointed with this app. It’s not at all worth the few moments it takes to download and install. It’s alpha quality at best. I’ll wait til Gowalla 4.0 is released before I even look at it again.

  • http://Website Marco

    Totally agree, useless program in this stage. Deinstalled and wait for version 4.0

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