Google has shown a penchant for refining its mobile strategy around the intersection of social and location and the trend continued April 4 in the refreshed Google Maps 5.3 app for Android.
Google Maps 5.3 for Android now lets Google Latitude users check-in at home from their smartphone and access their Google Location History dashboard. Latitude is Google's friend-finding app to help users connect via desktops and smartphones using GPS services.
Google risked the wrath of privacy advocates in November 2009 when it added Location History for Latitude, allowing desktop users to access their location history in a personal dashboard.
While Location History is opt-in and users can delete any of their location history from the app's dashboard on their computers, privacy buffs expressed concerns that law enforcement officials, the government or civil litigants would use that info in crime solving and lawsuits.
Google has promised Latitude content will receive the same special protections as other communications content.
Now Latitude Location History is portable on Android smartphones, as Latitude's 10 million users can also see their dashboard on their phones by tapping View location history from their Latitude profile.
Google is encouraging Latitude users who haven't already done so to enable Location History from their computer or from Latitude's Settings menu on their phones.
The search engine in February added check-in capability to Latitude, which has become Google's version of Foursquare, complete with game mechanics. Users in Austin, Texas, for example, can claim coupons by checking into local businesses from their mobile phone.
Now Latitude users can check-in at home to let their friends know they're at home instead of out and about. It's a small feature addition, but it can help users keep from wondering where their friends are.
Users can check-in from Latitude and tap "Home - Tap to set your location" at the bottom of the nearby places list. Users may then pick the estimated current address or manually enter the home address. When a user has checked-in at home once, "Home" will appear at the top of the list when checking in near there in the future.
Users may set Location History so that their "home" location is not searchable and only they can check in there.
Finally, Google Maps 5.3 for Android 5.3 lets users add their own "aspects," or details about a place they visit after rating places on the go in the Maps app using Google Places with the Hotpot recommendation engine. Think of it as Google Hotpot's version of Foursquare's tip-leaving capabilities.
"Before, we'd automatically include aspects about places that were commonly mentioned in reviews," said Kenneth Leftin, software engineer, for the Google Maps for mobile team in a blog post.
"Now, you can add your own aspects for each place. So if you think a place has a beautiful view or great music, you can add it yourself and quickly share it with the world."