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Google may have just made its big move in the location-based services space. According to the company’s mobile blog, it has launched Google Maps 5.1 for Android and included the ability to check in to specific locations with Latitude, its feature for sharing your location with friends.
While in the past users where able to share their location, it wasn’t based on a specific physical location, like a restaurant or bar, but just longitude and latitude coordinates — a dot on a map. Now, you can actually check into a place, which adds context, like a caption to a photo.
The check-in feature is just one update; Google has also added the ability to receive notifications as a reminder to check in when you arrive at location. For those who may not be hardcore users, this is a good way of building “active” users and creating a routine.
Additional features include the ability to create automatic check ins to places of your choice. Interestingly, you can also be automatically checked out — you wouldn’t want your friends arriving after you’ve already left.
If you’re wondering if there’s any kind of incentive, Google has made is so that users who check into places often can secure statuses, including “Regular,” “VIP” or “Guru,” which would show up on the location’s Place page, a sort of mini website with an address, number, directions and other important information.
Competition in the check-in space is abundant. Services like Facebook Places, Foursquare, Scvngr and Whrrl all give users check in capabilities . However, Google appears to be the only one with the combination of features that let you not only check in, but have notifications and the ability to check out, which could help the service attract new users — perhaps even from competing services.