The Friday Geolocation Time Trials

The Friday Geolocation Time Trials

With web apps, speed matters a lot.  The easier an activity is, the more people will do it.

Fast is a big part of easy.

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With these principals in mind, here at the TNW SF labs we set out to discover which was the fastest geolocation app to check in with at a particular moment in time, under similarly shoddy ATT connected conditions.

The contenders: Foursquare, Gowalla, Buzzd, PlacePop, Brightkite,, Burbn, Scvngr, Whrrl, Rummble, and MyTown.

Here were the ground rules:

We assumed a super user – a user that knew exactly how to use each app, and didn’t have to wait for a page to load completely to jump to the proper screen.  With some apps, this was harder than it sounds.  For example, it took me literally a few minutes to figure out how to refresh my Rummble nearby view which had cached my previous location in Amsterdam (clicking the protractor icon and then clicking “smart sort” does the trick), and I had to battle through several pitch pages on MyTown and Whrrl.

We also chose the first venue in any nearby queue, and didn’t deal with any problems in finding the actual venue – which is typically a big problem for many of these apps.  So in reality, the numbers you see below represent an absolute fastest case scenario.

We also turned off wifi and used a five bar (chuckle) AT&T 3G connection.

We started the clock upon tapping the app icon (we didn’t count time spent looking for the app).

A couple of observations before getting to the numbers:

Foursquare was having problems today.  They crashed a number of times but we kept giving them another chance, because, well they’re Foursquare.

Buzzd also crashed repeatedly when we tried to Buzz a place (the equivalent of a checkin).

HTML5 app Burbn felt slow, but in actuality wasn’t that slow.  Something about waiting for a browser window to load feels slower than a native app.

Far and away the fastest app we tested from launch to checkin was PlacePop.  Here were the rankings:

The geo apps have a long way to go before making checking in easy / fast.  We’ll recreate this experiment from time to time to see how these products are coming along.

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