This article was published on October 14, 2011

Apple’s ‘Find my Friends’ app is live, but misses the mark completely

Apple’s ‘Find my Friends’ app is live, but misses the mark completely
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

During the Apple keynote announcing the iPhone 4S, there were two mysterious apps announced that would be launched with iOS 5. The first was “Find my Friends“, an app joining a slew of location apps like FourSquare, to keep tabs on where your friends and family are at any given time and vice versa. The second was the Apple “Card” app, which enters the crowded but fruitful physical greeting card market.

I felt like the Apple Card app was very well done, and could have a great shot at making serious revenue for Apple. After a day with “Find my Friends“, I’m not so sure it can find the same success.

First off, the idea of the app is a bit creepy. Unlike foursquare, “Find my Friends” shares your location with whomever you accept a request from, all of the time.

I asked people on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook if they were using the app. I received a handful of responses, and only one from an actual friend that I’d want to share my location with. Here is Jacob Mullins‘ response:

After its announcement, there weren’t any other official mentions from Apple about the app. It just launched ahead of iOS 5 to not much fanfare. After spending some time with “Find my Friends”, it’s clearly not a social network play, as we had thought it might be. It’s a utility app to keep tabs on people, and I honestly don’t think it will catch on.

Here is Apple’s official description of the “Find my Friends” app:

Your friends mark the spot.

Meet up with friends at an outdoor concert. Keep track of the family during a day on the ski slopes. Or see when your out-of-town guest has finally made it past baggage claim. The Find My Friends app is a great way to share your location with people who are important to you.* Friends who share their location with you appear on a map so you can quickly see where they are and what they’re up to. And since Find My Friends works with Contacts and Maps, you can do things like find the quickest route to a surprise party — and avoid running into the birthday girl — all at once.

It sounds social to me.

Adding friends

Unlike most Apple apps, “Find my Friends” is not impressive at all. It’s hard to navigate, and it’s not straightforward on how you would get started with sharing your location, or even who you’d share it with.

Sending requests to friends requires an email from you, which you use your address book to lookup. The only problem is that you have to send the request to the Apple ID email address, and a lot of people I know have different email addresses for theirs. So, you may have to ask someone for their Apple ID email address to even get started. That’s a non-starter for me, honestly. Apple should have just used the brand new Twitter integration to authenticate a username of some sort, or at least tie your accounts together.

After someone sends you a request and you accept, you’re not prompted to follow them back. You have to send them a request, and this could take some time. It’s just not a very fluid user experience at all, even if “Find my Friends” isn’t supposed to be a social network.

Since “Find my Friends” is tied into the address book, you have to make sure that your contacts have photos, or the app will look even more boring.

Seeing where your friends are

Once the both of you have accepted each others request, you can tap on your friend and see their location. In real-time. As in where their phone is right this second. This is just odd, as an app like foursquare prompts you to check-in to a place you think is worthwhile to share with your friends. My exact coordinates in the world aren’t interesting to anyone at all. Well at least not anyone I’d accept a follow request from.

Who would actually use this?

Perhaps the main usage of this app might be for families. I could see a Mom and Dad making their 16-year-old son or daughter turn this app on, so that they can keep tabs on them. Even then, it feels like an invasion of privacy, and a half-baked idea from Apple. Socially speaking, foursquare’s new Radar feature is perfect for this type of “bat signal”. You really have to be close friends with someone to use this app, or even to figure out how to use this app. It even requires you to log-in upon every app open.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but “Find my Friends” just falls flat. It feels undone and feels like something carved out of “Find my Phone” and made to look cool and social. It misses the mark in a big way, though. For the record, I’ve gotten one follow request, from The Next Web writer Matthew Panzarino. Because I asked him to send it to me for this post.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with