Back in August, I wrote that Apple should buy Foursquare. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now that Apple’s Maps app is out and missing so much detail on local places and businesses, it sounds even better.
The Apple Maps app is nice. It’s fast, friendly and well organized. It’s the data that pose the problems. The maps themselves are inaccurate, and Apple has to solve that problem itself. But on top of that, searches for places come up empty too often, and searches by category are uneven.
As some smart comments on my original post pointed out, if Apple needed to buy Foursquare rather than build its own places database, it might have done so by now. I’m not convinced. The ability to personalize map results to the user’s tastes is the most critical part, both for Maps and Siri. Apple can’t build that in secret.
That’s why it launched Siri to the public last year, way before it was ready. The same pattern holds with Maps this year. Data-intensive services like these can only be improved by field testing and data gathering.
Foursquare has been field tested for years, and it has billions of check-ins to start with. Those are strong signals. That’s why Foursquare’s recommendations hold up against any other location service, even Yelp or Google, even with smaller adoption. Apple needs a leg up in location right now, and Foursquare seems like the best fit.
Yes, Yelp is already a close partner, but Yelp isn’t going anywhere. It’s a public company with big battles to fight in local advertising. It suits Apple just fine as a partner to add reviews to its location searches. What Apple needs is a personalized database of locations that it owns. That could be Foursquare.
There are many other Apple features that Foursquare would enhance, which you can read about in the original post. I think it’s worth reconsidering the argument now that Apple’s in the hot seat for location.