Loopt: a location aware mobile social network

This post is syndicated from ReadWriteWeb.

Loopt is the third location aware mobile social network to become available for the majority of U.S. smartphones . It joins fellow competitors Whrrl and Brightkite, both of which have already started to gain traction (see ReadWriteWeb coverage of Brightkite). However, this is not a market where the first one to debut on the smartphone will be the ultimate winner. Instead, in the wild west of the mobile social networks, the key will be adoption. This is an area where Loopt is making headway, having recently announced deals with all the major U.S. carriers and support for Blackberry smartphones.

About Loopt

Loopt actually launched back in 2006 after receiving funding from YCombinator as well as Series A from NEA and Sequioa. Back then, it was only available to Boost Mobile customers as a Java mobile client. In 2007, Loopt added Sprint Nextel to their list of carriers. However, it was this year when Loopt really started to grow, announcing more deals and a developers program which provides access to Loopt’s APIs for building location-aware applications.

Today, Loopt has deals with all major U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Alltel, and Boost Mobile. Although some networks support more phones than others, Loopt has made a smart move by not ignoring the other big smartphone out there – the Blackberry. Loopt now works on Blackberry phones on Sprint, Alltel, T-Mobile, and AT&T.

In addition to Blackberry support, Loopt works with a handful of other popular phones, like Sprint’s Razr and Razr2, but the big news of late was the reveal of the new Loopt app for the 3G iPhone which was featured during Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote.

How It Works

Like other location-based mobile social networks, Loopt lets you share your location, status, and photos with everyone on the service or just with your friends. A built-in mapping application shows you where your friends are and what they’re doing. To send out updates, you can either use your Loopt friend list or use AIM, thanks to included integration with that instant messaging service.

As you move around, Loopt uses GPS to automatically update your location and status – a feature that some people (usually those in the older generation) find a little disconcerting. For additional privacy, this location updating feature can be set to “manual” mode instead. Of course, you’re in control of who gets to “spy” on you – if you don’t want to be stalked by unknown strangers, then you simply don’t friend them.

A Loopt Map

The Problem With Loopt

Despite all the new Blackberry phones supported, there are still several models that aren’t yet able to use Loopt. (My T-Mobile Pearl would be one of them). Of course, there are also tons of “regular” phones that are unsupported, too. Meanwhile, the service has to compete with other mobile social networks, like Brightkite for example, where the only barrier to entry is the ability to use SMS.

For Loopt, some questions remain: can a mobile social network really succeed if only a limited number of phones are supported? Can Loopt succeed if they only focus on smartphones?

Maybe, maybe not…but then again, it could be that Loopt is just betting on the fact that in year or so from now after everyone’s contracts run out, we’ll all just be using iPhones anyway. Because really, that Loopt app for iPhone is pretty hot:

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

One Response to “Loopt: a location aware mobile social network”

  1. Janus says:

    I don’t see how Loopt will catch on if you don’t go out and buy an iPhone. It’s been around for awhile and it hasn’t proven very much. It definitely doesn’t work on my BlackBerry Pearl and I have AT&T.

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