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Following reports that some of the young location-based services are spitting out server errors as traffic is exploding, crowd-sourced testing company uTest decided to check out the three most familiar players in the arena. It’s conclusion: Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite have 870 software bugs in their applications.
Foursquare ranked best with “only” 177 bugs. Gowalla had 316, and Brightkite 377 in the “Check-In Challenge” test uTest organized. But those numbers are not “unusually high,” according to uTest VP of marketing, Matt Johnston.
“We are dealing with nascent products that do not have years and years of code built up. Also, we tested everything from their web application to their mobile apps on different platforms like iPhone, Android and Blackberry, which means we are adding many many lines of code to the mix. So, actually, I was kind of impressed with the results,” said Johnston.
Keep in mind, also, that a number of other players exist in this space, so a test of just these three companies isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of the location-based check-in market as a whole.
All in all, Foursquare managed to beat its competition in most categories of the test and did get the most positive overall feedback. The testers thought Gowalla was the best service when it came to actual location accuracy. Gowalla’s service requires that users be physically in (or at least near) the place they check in to, as the service checks the cell phone’s actual location. Foursquare, on the other hand, let’s users check in at bars or restaurants without ever leaving their home.
Brightkite came in third place in most categories such as location accuracy, connectivity with friends and ability to earn status, but did finish second in the “ease-of-use” category, with Foursquare leading and Gowalla in third place. According to uTest, 46% of the testers said that ease of use was the most important feature of a service. Location accuracy coming in second with 24% of the testers choosing it as the most important aspect. A blunt interpretation is that it doesn’t matter if the location accuracy is so-so, as long as the application is easy to use, meaning it has simple navigation and an intuitive, uncluttered user interface.
Location-based services have so far made money on advertising or by offering special deals and coupons. Foursquare and Brightkite recently had tie-ins with the coffee chain Starbucks, offering discounts for beverages. The testers, however, were disappointed at the lack of opportunities for getting coupons or deals on these services, which means that a) they are not yet readily available and b) there is a growing demand for them.
In addition to appreciating easy-to-use services and bemoaning the lack of Frappuccino deals, the testers seem to be concerned about the privacy and security implications of check-in services in general. 49% of testers said privacy and security concerns were the top reason they don’t use check-in services more often. This is something the check-in services need to address if they want to avoid privacy flames like the ones Facebook is constantly fighting.
You can download the uTest report here (PDF).
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