When it comes to socially oriented mobile applications, Facebook and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) tend to be among the leaders in mind and market share.
Facebook just launched Facebook Messenger, and Google+ includes Hangouts and Huddle apps.
Microsoft wants to play there as well via Bing. The company launched We’re In, an application for Windows Phone 7 (WP7) smartphones that lets users invite their friends to share their location and post status updates.
While Foursquare, Facebook Places and Latitude offer check-in capabilities for individual users, We’re In is a group check-in application for friends who want to find each other within crowds. When invitees join, they agree to share their location with other Windows Phone 7 users via Bing Maps.
Users must provide their mobile phone numbers to sign up and then must pick friends or enter phone numbers from their WP7 contacts. The users then tell their friends what the plan is and how long they want to share location info for the proposed meet-up.
Invitees receive a text message with these details, and they may then use the app to join the person who invited them. Users of phones other than WP7, such as iPhone or Android handsets, needn’t worry about being left out.
Those users will also receive a text from We’re In and may join from the mobile Website via the invite. However, the Bing mobile team is also working to port We’re In as a native app for other platforms.
When friends join the We’re In meet-up, their locations surface on the Bing Map, with everyone who joined able to see everyone else’s location.
We’re In users may also update their status to let friends know that they’re on their way or are running late, among other details. We’re In’s People tab aggregates the status messages of everyone who has joined the meet-up.
Bing has decent privacy measures in place so that users aren’t letting themselves be tracked by friends all of the time. For example, when the invite expires, the shared location does as well. Users may also stop sharing their location info at any time by tapping “leave” on the People tab.
Group communications services are becoming increasingly popular. Skype, the VOIP company being acquired by Microsoft, has just purchased group messaging service GroupMe. Facebook purchased group chat specialist Beluga and launched a Facebook Messenger group chat application based on those company’s assets.
The Google+ social network launched with Hangouts for group videoconferencing and Huddle group messaging for handsets.
Clearly, Bing is eager to grab a piece of this action for its nascent WP7 platform. With a group check-in model, Bing has a fresh approach compared to those companies. Perhaps the app can eventually provide some rewards for users who check in to group meetings and places first.
It’s unclear whether the difference will appeal enough to users to boost user engagement, both of Bing’s mobile search and WP7.