Friend Mapper is a Cool Concept for the Right Audience

Friend Mapper — Combine the iPhone’s built-in GPS with our natural tendency to be nosy and you get a plethora of location-based apps that allow users to find, follow and map their friends. Friend Mapper, (formerly Amigo Mapper) by Winkpass Creations, would be just another in this line of apps were it not for one seriously ambitious twist.

Friend Mapper lets you show your location to friends. You can also find friends that have opted to share their location. So far, it’s pretty standard stuff. The twist is that Friend Mapper offers live updating. So, not only can you see that your friend Jane is at the mall, you can watch as she moves from store to store. Or, more practically, if the family is planning to meet for dinner you can watch live as Uncle Larry takes a wrong turn and call him before ends up in the next town. Friend Mapper includes one touch calling or texting for any of your linked contacts.

Did I mention this app was ambitious? Unfortunately, it may be too ambitious for the current iPhone. The caveat to live updating is that it only works if your contact’s iPhone or iPod touch is turned on and they have the app open. Otherwise, it’s just a map which shows where your friends were recently — and if your friends don’t tend to update their location, it may not even do that.

Friend Mapper works much better with iPhone 3G or 3G S. Original iPhone, without built-in GPS, won’t locate or track as precisely. Of course, this isn’t Friend Mappers fault.

In fact, most of what’s wrong with Friend Mapper isn’t the developers fault. It’s a brilliant idea. If only the iPhone could run multiple apps. Or, if your friends could be relied upon to consistently turn on and update their location. These are the two things that keep the live updating from being very live.

It would be nice to see some extra features to keep us entertained until live location updating becomes a more viable feature. The ability to snap and attach photos to a location, or a list of favorite locations for when the GPS doesn’t get it quite right.

In the meantime, Friend Mapper is a nice concept and is probably handy for very specific situations as long as your entire group owns iPhones. It would be fun during a scavenger hunt to spy on the other teams or it could add a new dimension to extreme hide-and-seek. If you have a group of friends willing to play along, you’ll probably get your dollar’s worth. But, don’t expect Friend Mapper to change the world. It’s just not there yet.