Loopt's popular social mapping service is now available free through Google's Android Market mobile application store, helping users of the Android-based T-Mobile G1 smartphone find their friends.
Android is the mobile operating system Google designed to give consumers superior mobile Internet browsing experiences over smartphones. Core to this goal is providing access to popular services such as Loopt, an application that uses digital maps and pop-up balloons on smartphones to show users where friends are located and what they are doing.
Providing excellent mobile experiences also happens to be Apple's goal with its popular iPhone, the de facto gold standard for smartphones, as its 13 million-plus users can attest. However, with Loopt, Android may have an advantage.
Like Loopt for the iPhone, Loopt for the Android Market offers all the core Loopt features, including location updating, which alerts users when a friend is nearby, and the ability to switch between map modes for a satellite view of their maps. G1 users can also share their information with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
However, G1 users may enjoy a better user experience for Loopt than iPhone users because the iPhone does not allow background processing for third-party apps. This means users cannot receive Loopt updates unless the application is running all the time.
For many users, that will soften the immediacy and erode the value of the experience. VentureBeat's MC Siegler has the dirty details on that dilemma here and believes Apple will eventually match the G1's background processing.
Currently, Loopt is provided only in the United States by phone carriers AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Boost, MetroPCS and T-Mobile, but it is supported on more than 100 handsets. This includes Apple's iPhone, which is responsible for the surge in smart phone sales and interest, RIM's BlackBerry and now on phones that support Android.
That only officially includes the G1; the SIM-unlocked Android phone announced Dec. 5 comes with a developers only caution.
Reception of the G1 has been mixed. However, the device, which has a slideout keyboard and a touch screen, stacks up well with the iPhone even if it doesn't surpass it.
That could change with the arrival of more Android phones, which may be triggered by the recent enlistment of Vodafone, Sony Ericsson and 12 other vendors in the Open Handset Alliance, Android's army of technology vendors.
Motorola is working on Android phones for 2009, while Sprint has recently stated its interest creating an Android device.
Indeed, Android is gaining momentum; will it be enough to compete with iPhone, Windows Mobile, Nokia Symbian and others in 2009?