Loopt Launches Mobile Friend Finder

Loopt 1.jpgloopt 2.jpgA few months ago, I did a little consulting for Loopt to help them get a toe-hold in Europe, so it’s great to see the product finally come out of stealth mode and get into the market. They launched last night¬†on¬†the¬†youth focused,¬†Boost Mobile network and I’m sure it’ll be a great success.

The friend finder isn’t a new concept – I can remember people talking about it for at least 8 years and maybe even longer. It’s also been a consistent part of any mobile¬†future-gazing done by pundits. However, it’s one thing to talk and another to overcome the significant technical and commercial challenges and actually launch something that not only works, but is cool and usable, so¬†that’s what makes Loopt exciting.

Loopt is a Java application that users download to their phone. Once you’ve started to add your friends, you can see them on an on-screen map in real time. Plus you can can send them messages and get alerts when they’re nearby. In other words, Loopt simply gives you all the tools to run your social life.

While it might be vaguely useful for us older folks (everyone over 30 in this context) it’s going to be particularly valuable for the mobile natives who are growing up today. Already¬†kids live their social lives in way that would be unrecognizable to a teen even 10 years ago. No longer do they make plans in the same way as we did in the old days. They make vague commitments to meet “in town” at pretty unspecified times. Then when they get there, they speak to each other via their mobile to hone in on a specific destination and time.

Now Loopt enables them to do all this without the voice element, plus it allows users to update presence information like “in a cafe” or “at the cinema”. This later feature is going to be pretty addictive, as kids everywhere fiendishly keep their latest information up to date.

The biggest issue facing Loopt is that currently they need to launch their product in conjunction with an operator, to get the location feeds. While Boost are to be congratulated for their vision in being the first to market, Loopt can’t really fulfill its fantastic potential until all a user can see all their friends, not just those on the Boost network. Or until the user has persuaded their network of friends to switch operator to get the Loopt tools. I don’t want to be unrealistic, but I really think that for certain users, Loopt is compelling enough to generate a switch, but let’s see what happens.

But if you’re an operator and you want to appeal to a younger audience, get people to use more data and generate income from services other than voice (err…thatll be all the operators in the world then), you should check out Loopt. It’s a location based service that is seriously in danger of being a compelling user application and making some real money.

Declaration of interest: Loopt are also funded by Sequoia Capital, who also funded AdMob (my day job in case you missed it). This is a complete coincidence actually and has nothing to do with my opinions here. I guess you probably know that, but just wanted things to be 100% transparent, as usual.

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