Don Moore

Introducing Echo, The Newest in Location Based iPhone Apps

In iPhone, Social Networking on July 26, 2010 at 7:38 PM

Web 2.0 is all about innovation. No one knows this better than mobile software developers, and in particular, iPhone app developers. There are over 250,000 apps available in the app store. Sure, a lot of that number is comprised of fart machine and “Ask The Octopus” apps, but there’s still thousands upon thousands of useful apps out there, all competing for consumers’ interest and ultimately, money. The only way to guarantee success for your app is to separate yourself from the crowd. “Our app is sleeker and faster,” developers tell users. “Our app is shinier, newer. Our app is better.” It’s the same strategy Apple has perfected in marketing for its entire line of products, including the iPhone itself.

The minds behind the new app Echo get this. Echo is a newcomer in a market flooded with GPS-enabled, location based social networking apps. Foursquare, the most popular of these apps, has reached the one million user mark. Echo can’t make headway into this market by being as good as Foursquare or Google Latitude. So the goal behind Echo is to invent their own kind of geosocial networking.

This approach is evident as soon as you visit their site. They spend as much time explaining what they aren’t as they do explaining they aren’t. Christian Levis, Nigel Snowdon, and Raul Noriega, the three men responsible for Echo, are not computer programmers. Most importantly, they are not about “checking in”. Checking in is, in their words, “lame”. Location itself isn’t always relevant, they argue, not with relatively small user bases. So Echo will not used an established model to connect users. In fact, they intend to take the established model and throw it in the trash bin. So how exactly does the Echo brain trust plan to do things? Here’s a rundown:

Mobile Chat Rooms

Echo will focus less on users’ locations, putting an emphasis instead on the actual people. The app will set up mobile chat rooms, where users in the same area can communicate with one another in real time. Based on your preferences, you can chat with friends or with complete strangers. Echo doesn’t rely on updates, but live, streaming content, just like a normal face to face conversation. Contrast this with every other app of this type, where interaction is limited to updates to a central database. It’s cloud computing taken to its logical conclusion.

Friend Radar

The focus on active social networking goes even further with Sonar, what Echo describes as its “Friend Radar”. You can actively scan an area to see which users are nearby. People are no longer required to actively meet each other; simply being around is enough. No users online? Echo lets you contact users even when they aren’t signed on.  Push notifications make sure Echo users stay connected, 24/7.

Social Meets Corporate

Another of the app’s defining features is the emphasis placed on its commercial potential. Many social networking companies still view the user generated content and advertising as two distinct entities, with each clearly defined. Echo treats advertising as user generated content. The Echo Ad Platform (which will presumably be active as soon as the service launches) allows advertisers to “sponsor” their location on a map,  attracting nearby users. It’s quintessential targeted advertising.

Conclusion

The Echo team has a steep undertaking ahead of it. They must make a name for their app in a market which already may be saturated, a market in which numerous competitors have already established themselves. They are banking on innovation to win users over; not just doing what the big guys are doing, but doing something different than what the big guys are doing. In that, they’ve succeeded. No other geosocial networking app does “social” as well or in as many ways as Echo. The next challenge–really, the biggest challenge- is to parlay all this innovation into success.

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  1. […] month, TekSpeak did a story on Echo, the upstart app looking for a seat at the Location Based Service (or LBS) table beside the likes […]

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