There are a ton of social networks and microblogs out there. As is the case with most of them, they’re not really worth your time unless you find some way that they can directly benefit YOU.
Personally, I was not a huge fan of BrightKite until just recently, when they released their dedicated iPhone Application. The location-based social network always seemed a bit lame to me because you either had to have your laptop with you (and booted up) everywhere you went, or you had to control the entire system through text messaging. Now, for iPhone users anyway, this App could take BrightKite over the top.
The BrightKite App [iTunes Link] is very well made. This is partly because the website is also fairly simple in its design and therefore the App needed to do a small number of things very well. The most prominent screen, which will be the most useful to the casual user, is the “I am…” screen (as seen below).
From here you can see your current location, turn on and off the iPhone’s built in location feature, toggle Place Snap, or pick a place at which to check in. If you’re not familiar with BrightKite, “checking in” is the way that you connect your account to your location.
Also on that page, you can post a note or a photo. These features work about as you’d expect them to, with images coming from either your library or your camera directly. Notes are limited to 140 characters. I had a hard time determining what the “Place Snap” feature is, but I believe it just checks your location automatically if it is turned on.
One of the neat features of BrightKite (and consequently of your iPhone once you install this App), is that you can get updates about your local area on the fly. This is especially cool if you’re at a conference or concert where there are likely to be many members of the tech-elite present. The “Nearby” tab provides you with everyone within a specified distance’s updates, images, and notes. Clicking through gives you access to even more information about that post and that user.
One thing that should be noted is that privacy, especially location-oriented privacy, is something that BrightKite has done a great job building in. On their website they have a fairly decent list of privacy controls. The App displays a little open/shut lock icon anytime you could post new information. If you want to restrict access to your locations or updates, simply toggle the lock and you’re safe from prying eyes. You probably won’t have to use it very much, but it’s nice to know that the privacy features are there when you need them.
If you really begin to dive into BrightKite and your group of friends grows, you’re going to probably use the direct messaging service fairly frequently. BrightKite wisely added “@reply” functionality (see: “Twitter“) to their service, but when that just won’t do it, direct messaging is the way to go. On the App, messaging is delightful. This is primarily because the interface is just like that of the iPhone text messaging client or iChat on the Mac. While there are several more tabs on the App, they are all fairly self-explanatory.
In closing, I think this is one of the better site-to-iPhone App transitions I have ever seen. Even if you don’t like BrightKite as a service, you’ll be able to appreciate the attractive layout and intuitive design. I’m definitely adding this one to my permanent front page icons (a lofty spot on an App reviewer’s iPhone) and in the next few weeks I will try to remember to play with the location-based features as I travel around.
If you noticed that I used a lot of the same screenshots from the iTunes page for BrightKite, it is because I have very few friends! Feel free to friend me!
Also, while BrightKite is still in Beta, invites are pretty widely available. Right now I have 20 to give out, so you can either leave your email in the comments or email me at James AT MakeUseOf dot com. If you can’t get one from me, don’t worry, they will probably give one too you very quickly if you submit your email on their site.
Please let us know if you use BrightKite and what you think of this App. Also, post your user account address so we can all friend each other!
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