Location-based services allow you to report your current location in real time to a given platform. This is usually done by checking into locations such as restaurants, retail shops, airports manually from a smartphone.

This guide outlines four of the most popular location-based services.

FourSquare was one of the first location-based services to hit the market and has the largest following of all the check-in based services.

LocationUsing FourSquare, you can earn badges for checking into different places and earn mayorships for being the person to check in the most often to certain locations. Businesses will often offer perks and discounts to mayors, giving a real-world financial incentive to use FourSquare often.

You can also use FourSquare to find tips on specific businesses, as well as to see where your friends have been and what they recommend.

Here’s an overview of the FourSquare service. Note that the majority of these features are only available on the smartphone app and not on the website.

See Your Friends’ Checkins

Using FourSquare you can see where all your friends have previously checked in. You can see where they’ve checked in near you, or anywhere in the world by tabbing between “Nearby” and “Worldwide” in the top bar.

See What Businesses Are Near You

Want to know what’s going on around you? You can use the “Nearby Places” feature to find interesting businesses near your home, work, or where you just happen to be.

You can also search for specific kinds of businesses like restaurants, cafes, laundromats, shopping centres and so on.

Checking In

Find a place you like? Want to tell the world where you’ve visited?

Checking into FourSquare lets you share your location and your personal experience.

Using Lists

Browsing lists is a great way to find new places you might not have otherwise found. For example, a music fan might decide to create a list of the bars and clubs with the best music. You can then browse those lists to see what you might be interested in visiting yourself.

To view lists created by others, just click “Lists” at the bottom of the smartphone app.

Click on any list to see a list of the places chosen by that user.

Browsing Tips

Users can leave tips on a business’ page. Tips can include ways to get discounts, cool features you might not have known about or upcoming events.

Profiles and Badges

FourSquare allows you to build up a history of checkins to earn points. The more points you earn, the more badges you get.

You can also earn mayorships by getting the most checkins to any location.

These are some of the most prominent features of FourSquare. FourSquare is a great way to find new places around you, as well as to stay connected to friends.

Yelp is a user generated content website that does reviews on local businesses. Anytime you visit a business and have either a positive or negative experience, you can go on Yelp to share your thoughts.

Then anytime someone else is considering going to that place of business, they can do a search on Yelp to see what kinds of experiences other people have had.
Here’s how to use Yelp.

Finding a Business

There are a few different ways you can find businesses on Yelp. If you have a specific business name or business type you want to find, just type it into the keyword box along with a location.

On the other hand, you can also find businesses you’ve never heard of by browsing the categories.

You can also find businesses by browsing the “Best Of.”

Browsing Reviews

Anytime you see results in a search or category page, you’ll see an abbreviated information page with the company name, contact details, overall rating and a snippet of a review.

Location2Upon clicking into the actual review page, you’ll be given much more information on the business. You’ll learn about their hours, their parking situation, whether or not they take reservation, dress code, price range, whether they have wifi and a lot more.

You’ll also be given access to a mini-map showing you where the business is. You can click the map for a larger interactive Google map.

Within each business’s page will be a number of reviews. Here you’ll see the reviewer’s name, their star rating for their overall experience and a written review of the business.

Writing a Review

To write a review, click “Write a Review” in the top navigation bar.

Then search for the business you want to review.

You can also just click “Write a Review” within any business listing you’re browsing.

Once you’re in the review page, you’ll be given the change to rate the business on a scale from one to five.

Then you can write up a written review of your experience at the business.

You can also add a bit of additional optional information.

Hit post when you’re ready and your review will go live!

That’s how to use Yelp to find new businesses or businesses you’ve already frequented, research the business as well as customer opinion and to post your own reviews of businesses that you’ve been to.

Google Latitude
Google Latitude is Google’s location-based application. Google’s first foray into location-based services was when they acquired Dodgeball in 2000. However, Google decided not to put anymore resources into Dodgeball and eventually the founders left to start FourSquare.

Nine years later in 2009, after location-based services began to take off, Google decided to give it another shot. Google Latitude was the result.

Here are the main features of Google Latitude. Note that although Latitude has a web platform where you can research businesses, most of Latitude’s features are catered to mobile devices.

Friend by Friend Privacy Options

Google is incredibly concerned about privacy and goes out of its way to make it as easy as possible for you to choose who gets to see what.

With Latitude, you can choose on a friend by friend basis what they get to see. You can choose to see someone else’s shares without sharing yourself, you can accept a friend invitation and share back, you can accept and just share your physical location or you can deny friend requests.

See Friends’ Location and Profiles

Once you have a friend relationship with someone, you can see them wherever they are. Latitude will even map out their physical location for you.

You can also view their profile, their privacy settings, their contact information and directions to where they are. You can also contact them directly from their profile.

Find Friends From a Variety of Places

You can find your friends by using existing contacts from a number of different social networks and online applications.

Once found, Google Latitude will display a list of people you might want to add as friends. You can then pick and choose the ones you want to add.

Checking In

Click “Check In” in the navigation tab to see all the places near you that you can check into.

Once you choose a place to check into, you’ll be allowed to choose who gets to see your location: Everyone, just friends or nobody.

Location Details

Want to see what other people thought of a specific location? Or want to get directions or contact information? You can do so in that business’ page.

More Options

Google Latitude has a number of additional options you can choose from. Click “Settings” to access these options.

Again, the first option Google gives you is the privacy options.

After that, you can choose whether you want Google Latitude to update automatically in the background, whether you want to see things in miles or meters and whether you want to use map view or a satellite image for all your Google Latitude maps.

These are the main feature of Google Latitude. Using Latitude, you can share your location and opinions in a privacy conscious manner. You can easily add all your existing friends from other social networks and your email accounts and see where their location is. You can also check into and review various businesses as well as research businesses in your area.

Gowalla is a location-based tips sharing application which allows you to share stories, advice and reviews about different places internationally.

You can use Gowalla as a social network to share location information with friends, or you can just use it as a guide website to find advice about places you want to visit.

Here’s an overview of the Gowalla service.

Browsing Guides

Gowalla’s main feature is its location guides. It has guides for just about any location in the world, both in first world countries and in far off countries all over the world.

You can use Gowalla’s guide features on its website, or you can use it from the smartphone app.

This is what the guides on the website look like:

And this is what the iPhone’s guide looks like:

Once you choose a location, you’ll be presented with a listing of all the various businesses and landmarks that Gowalla knows about.

Clicking on any link will bring you to a detailed listing on that specific landmark or business.

Checking In

Gowalla’s location-based features are only available on the smartphone, not on their online interface.

Gowalla organizes its check-in features around “stories.” A story is a sequence of locations that you’ve visited.

Start your story by making a check-in, then continue your story by making more check-ins.

You can tag other people with locations as well to tie their stories in with yours.

See Where Your Friends Are

Gowalla allows you to see when and where your friends are.

Friends and Profiles

Much like any other social network, you’ll have your own profile where you can track who’s following you and who you’re following.

Click “Find Friends” to locate friends from your other social networks and add them on Gowalla.

Map Your Local Area

You can also map out all the nearby monuments, landmarks, businesses and places of interest near where you’re currently at.

Click on any tag to get more information on that location.

These are most of the important features in Gowalla. You can find and add friends, view guides for specific locations, map your location, create your own stories from where you’ve visited, see what your friends are up to and more.