Review: No real point to Foursquare, yet addictive

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I still struggled with the question of what Foursquare offers beyond its novelty.

Deals are certainly an enticement, but I have yet to qualify for one. Many of the ones I saw were in partnership with American Express and required having and using its credit card. One participating Chinese restaurant didn’t even know it was being offered. A brunch place that supposedly offered the deal was “cash only,” so there was no way I could have claimed it, even if I had an American Express card.

The “Explore” feature could come in handy when I’m looking for ideas. I searched for lunch options one day and got 30 recommendations from Foursquare, but many of them were too far for my half-hour lunch break. By contrast, Yelp’s reviews service offered places that were much closer, along with options to narrow the list based on price and type of cuisine.

Foursquare lets users share tips on particular venues, and I’ve occasionally found those useful. In Little Rock, Ark., one user’s tip steered me toward calzone over pizza, and my taste buds were very appreciative. But in New York, there’s sometimes too much junk among the tips. At LaGuardia Airport, the top “tip” was a joke from The Onion and the second one was a link to an opinion column on airport security. The joke wasn’t even funny. Just tell me how to find the bus to Manhattan!

I’ve also found it difficult to pull up the places I wanted to check in to. I’m used to Google making spelling corrections for me and even suggesting searches as I type the first few letters. No wonder I kept missing specials. My fingers weren’t precise enough to let me finish checking in and viewing deals before the takeout staffer asked for my order.

Foursquare recently added other features, such as opening hours for local merchants and price guides for restaurants, but that’s already available through Yelp, which does a better job of curating listings to weed out duplicates. Facebook also has a check-in feature now, and that’s where most of my friends do it.

So why do I bother with Foursquare? You’d think that list of annoyances gives me enough reason to stay away.

Occasionally, Foursquare gives me a good chuckle. A search once popped up the fictional Room of Requirement from the “Harry Potter” books and movies. Someone created “incompetence” as a venue for a local commuter transit agency; 54 people had checked in 71 times the last time I checked.

And were it not for Foursquare bonus points, I wouldn’t have remembered Pi Day on March 14.

There’s no good answer to “What’s the point?” but that can be said about much of the Internet.

I’ve found myself choosing takeout places based on how close I was to becoming mayor.

To me, Foursquare remains a novelty, a game and a good way to pass the time waiting for the bus or a meal to arrive. It offers an instant record of where I’ve been and when. If I forget to check in, it’s as if I’d never been there.

Foursquare doesn’t need to be more than that.

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Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, became mayor of two eateries on Manhattan’s Upper East Side this week _ a Chinese restaurant on Tuesday and a pizzeria on Wednesday. He also is mayor of a hotel in Brenham, Texas, and a doctor’s office in New York.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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