R1 sc main Loopt improves notifications, deeply connects with Facebook PlacesLoopt has updated its apps to offer deeper integration with Facebook Places, better notifications and ‘Ping’, and “all-emcompassing location-based text message service.

According to a press release, the more-or-less completely redesigned new app features:

Notifications: A feed of the latest Loopt activity, such as nearby places your friends like to go, and allows you to respond to Pings, friend requests, and see nearby rewards. Here, users will also find “hot” places nearby (this includes places their friends have gone and where a significant amount of Loopt users have gone).

Simplified background location sharing: Turn background location sharing on or off for a subset of close friends/family so they can see where you are any time, even if the app isn’t open; everyone else only sees you when you check in. This marks a shift in location sharing. The ability to share backgroundlocation persistently with close friends creates new sharing opportunities for those who don’t want to check in, and a chance for surprise and delight when you’re alerted a friend is nearby.

Connect with friends in more ways: Loopt is adding text to the existing Ping messages (which previously just requested a friend’s location), which eliminates the need for meet-up text messages like “where are you?” and “almost there,” by pairing a map with those messages. Loopt lets you Ping your Facebook friends as well (by posting a note on their wall).

Friend list sorting: More sophisticated list sorting of friends, into nearby,recent and by name.

Find and connect with friends around places: A Places button is now at the center of Loopt’s home screen, incorporating check-in functionality, and also now including more friend- and place-finding features. Find out if friends havebeen to a place, if they are nearby a place you checked in, or if they are there right now. From a Place page, you can Ping all your friends at that place with a group message.

Loopt is also discontinuing Loopt Star, the separate app that it launched this year, migrating its deals features into the main app (which we agree with as a strategy). In an interview with CEO Sam Altman, he told us that the developing ecosystem helped head to these changes:

The ecosystem is evolving quickly and we can now do things we could never do before, so we’re doing a major update to take advantage of that.  For example, the Facebook Places API has a huge amount of data we can leverage to provide customized social recommendations on places for each user, and local businesses are starting to really understand that services like Loopt can drive a lot of foot traffic.

Here’s a video of the new app in action: