While I do enjoy Foursquare for its multitude of uses, from a social game to a cool app for instant tips from locals, I do understand why people roll their eyes at me when I insist on checking into a place. For those people, they don’t see a purpose to this app. Their iPhone probably has a weather app, maybe a to-do list and maybe a news feed: all solid, informative apps that turn their phone into a tool of function rather than a tool of fun.
Well, here’s an app that puts the fun in function. Yes, I just wrote that. Marco is technically a game of Marco Polo, except this time you access the app to find out where your friends are located. Say you’re waiting for your friend to arrive for dinner. You access the app and enter your friend’s name – it sends a text message (using your address book) that says “Marco! Show (the sendee) your location on a map” with a link. Click the link, and your friend is taken to the Marco website, where he/she taps a button to send an SMS “Polo” back. You don’t need to have the Marco app on his or her phone for this to work. From there, you receive the SMS “Polo,” which tells you how far away your friend is from arriving.
Similar apps already exist. The most popular one is Loopt, which has partnerships with most U.S. mobile carriers as a social mapping device, that also works as a loyalty service. Yet it isn’t yet available outside of the U.S.
Marco Polo is technically a game, sure – but the developers have created an app that can appeal to those users who dislike social gaming. And those who do like gaming can redefine their usage of this game at their own leisure.