Mobile OS evolution key to Foursquare’s future

Foursquares European business development head, Omid Ashtari.

Continuing updates to mobile operating systems such as Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are key to Foursquare’s continuing growth, according to the firm’s European business development head, Omid Ashtari. Speaking to StrategyEye, Ashtari cites the passive location-gathering technology in Apple’s recent iOS 5 update, which enabled Foursquare to launch its real-time push notification service, Radar, last month. Ashtari claims that Radar was developed some time before the OS update, enabling it to roll out just a day after Apple released iOS 5. Foursquare is attempting to move beyond being simply a check-in service by lowering the barrier for engagement and integrating location-based features and incentives that can benefit users and merchants.

“Operating systems are still in the beginning phase of enabling location-based services,” says Ashtari. “iOS 5 did great things with the passive location information gathering, and we were one of the first apps to use that capability [with Radar]. We hope to see things like that coming to Android and other operating systems, and that they become more battery friendly and more accurate.”

Ashtari says that Foursquare is “in the driver’s seat to become one of the major players” in the social-location services space. He believes that the act of checking-in, while still a core element for Foursquare, has “become a bit of a commodity”, adding that the firm doesn’t want to be perceived as just a check-in app.

Foursquare’s new features are designed to help the startup build on its 15m user base, and ultimately generate significant revenues in a space that has been tipped to explode as smartphone adoption continues, though it is yet to live up to expectations. Ashtari believes that Foursquare still has time to start pulling in revenue due to several funding rounds, the latest a USD50m haul in June, adding that it is “easy to conceive” how Foursquare can further monetise its platform.

Foursquare CEO, Dennis Crowley, recently reiterated the firm’s plans to move beyond check-ins by providing more automated features such as Radar, and the startup recently revamped its desktop website to provide more value such as planning trips and creating lists of interesting locations. Adoption of mobile location services such as maps is accelerating, with more than quarter of US adults now utilising them, according to Pew Research Center, however social location platforms are lagging, with just 4% using apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla. The firm aims to boost that number with its additional features in the coming months. 

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