Being a geek and tech addict I guess I’m always looking for the next product refresh, update, bug-fix patch and, of course, new product.  I crave change and fresh ‘stuff’ to figure out and to play with in my digital life.  Using the same software or app time and time again just isn’t an option (unless it’s an iPhone…. but that’s a whole separate post… and no I have written that one yet).

So it’s not surprising that, whilst starting out with Gowalla, I soon found myself checking-in everywhere with Foursquare.  A few months on and I’m back on Gowalla.  So, in all this time how do I compare the two products?  

In all honesty it’s hard to choose between the two.  I like them both.  It’s probably because they both do essentially the same thing, at least considering what I want to use them for.  I want to check in to places I visit and have the app publish those locations to my social media streams (namely Twitter and Facebook).  I’m not bothered about all the other stuff.  I don’t care if I’m the Mayor or if I earned a badge or a pin.  I used to but now I can’t really be bothered.  Being a mayor or earning a badge has never benefited me in any way.  Maybe that will change in the future if I suddenly become hooked on Dominos Pizza or if my local Starbucks joins in offering it’s Mayor a free Friday coffee but for now, it’s not for me.

So, I shall limit the comparison to the basics, checking-in to new and existing locations to let my friends and family know where I am.  

It used to be true that I found Foursquare less accurate in it’s location awareness but I have to say that there really doesn’t appear to be anything between the two services now.  I regularly open them both up to compare and they are both close enough that it makes no difference (the last comparison I made between the two resulted in a difference of just 4 metres).

User Interface
Gowalla sports a more graphical interface with brightly coloured icons in the “spots” list while Foursquare seems cleaner.  The two apps use the available screen real estate in different ways but on average are just about on a par with one another.  Gowalla uses the available space better in the “spots” (vs “places” for Foursquare) showing more places to check-in to but Foursquare uses it better on the user profile page.  Swings and roundabouts.  

Speed and responsiveness
There’s not much in it when it comes to the speed of each app.  Using the two for some time I think Foursquare perhaps noses out in front here but it’s not by much.  It feels that little bit more responsive when loading up for the first time and loading the list of “places” but that aside, when navigating throughout the app, it feels to be on a par with Gowalla.

Posting to social media streams
There’s nothing to differentiate here.  Both apps fire out your location, using their own URL shortening service, to Facebook and Twitter very efficiently.

Spots Vs Places
Here I find a difference and I think I prefer the Gowalla implementation.  Both do a great job of listing all nearby places  However, Gowalla allows the user to back out to a menu in order to select places (spots) by type or find featured or bookmarked places.  I particularly like the ability to view a list of nearby places by type, it’s such a useful feature.  

So what else
Not a lot really.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m just looking to check-in and post that I’ve checked-in, with comment, to my social media streams.  Both apps do that very well.  Gowalla does allow you to take and upload a photo which I am likely to end up using more.  It’s certainly a nice addition and is a feature that Foursquare doesn’t offer yet.

Conclusion (and which will I be using going forward)
I’m an engineer and a self confessed geek.  I like statistics, numbers and detail.  For that reason I should stick with one service and build up my statistical data (number of check-ins, pins, badges, mayorships).  However, that’s not what I really want from these services (as I’ve mentioned numerous times above).  So it’s possible that I will continue to chop and change between the two apps, especially as they release new features.  

As I started to use Gowalla again recently I fully expected that one of the apps would clearly identify itself as my preferred location check-in service.  I thought that one of the apps would just do it that much better than the other.  That hasn’t happened.  Would I recommend one over the other? No.  Would I recommend either of them? Yes.  It comes down to personal preference.

For now, I’m sticking with Gowalla.  There’s no particular reason other than I want to try out the photo upload functionality a little more.

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on which you prefer and why.  Do you use something else entirely?  I have tried Brightkite and Rummble but was put off almost instantly by the iPhone apps (I found them very cluttered compared with Gowalla and Foursquare).