Location on Mobile: Still Wandering Around A Little Aimlessly

I’ve been thinking about location and mobile a lot lately, mostly trying to wrap my head around this nebulous (at least to me) “social location” trend. It seems to me that so many “location-based services” — I just shudder uopn reading that term — of today are rehashes of many of the same ideas from the early days of LBS, they’ve just got slightly better UIs and GPS makes them less of a hassle.

So it was with some interest I followed some of the tweets coming out of this week’s Mobile Monday London, which was about location. It was apparently inspired, in part, by an article from Mobile Entertainment dispelling that industry’s top 10 myths, which included this gem:

9. “Location-based technology is intrinsically exciting for consumers…”

No it’s not. The phrase “location-based technology” intrinsically puts most people who aren’t in the mobile industry to sleep. And they look equally unimpressed if you promise them their phone can guide them to the nearest cashpoint… The problem is that this is all still technology-led. The assumption that everyone wants to track their friends – and especially that they regularly go out in town with no specific plans in mind of who to meet or where to go – is unproven at best. As is the idea that people want to geotag all their photos and videos and share them with the world, all the time.

The next year or two will see some really smart, desirable mobile services launch that use location. But it’s the ones that are actually based on stuff people want to do that will succeed.

Kudos to Stuart Dredge for nailing it on the head. Put another way by @bookmeister: “IMO location is like messaging, billing or identity it will be a part of all good apps, it’s not a service on it’s own”.

Good stuff that pretty much sums up how I’m seeing things at the moment. One further point to make: based on some more tweets, it looks like somebody brought up the old Starbucks ad example again. You know — the “wow, it’ll be awesome for a Starbucks to be able to send ads to everybody that walks by.”

No, it won’t. Russell thoroughly debunked this scenario more than two years ago, and not a damn thing has changed, except the technology. But, like Stuart pointed out, that’s irrelevant. Just because we now have the ability to do something, doesn’t make it useful or desirable. And that seems to sum up much of the mobile location world at this point.

Your thoughts? Who’s got a great mobile service built around location right now? Or am I just totally off the map (ha ha) here?

—–>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo