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Checking in is finally just one swipe away

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Foursquare's new Swarm widget takes great advantage of iOS 8

Checking in should have always been automatic — a feature every phone shipped with that lets you keep up with friends and track where you've been. Even Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, who popularized the check in, would say so. But until the last year or two, the technology required to track your location without eating up your battery hasn't existed. So we had Foursquare, which let you check in by opening the app and tapping a few buttons. A few years later we got Swarm, Foursquare's dedicated check-in app, which made the process even faster. But neither app felt effortless.

Today, that's all changing with Foursquare's new Swarm widget for iOS 8. If you enable the widget, swiping down to your iPhone's notification center now lets you check in with one tap. Foursquare has spent years refining its location-tracking engine, so its guesses are generally pretty accurate about where you are. If you're the kind of person who uses Swarm to track your life, it's a dream come true. But the widget also includes a list of nearby friends, a feature that Foursquare has been pushing in one way or another for years. Now you can check in with a swipe, but also see which friends are close by.

Finding nearby friends is a utility dozens of companies have spent years trying to pin down

Finding nearby friends is a utility dozens of companies have spent years trying to pin down. Facebook tried it with Nearby Friends. Foursquare tried it. Google tried it with Latitude. Even Apple tried it with Find My Friends. But as time has gone on, it's become increasingly clear that people don't want such a feature as much as Silicon Valley might have thought. In iOS 8, Apple has moved its native friend-finding capabilities to inside the texting app, where it's actually very useful. But no app besides Swarm makes nearby friends just a swipe away. Now, the app has the potential to create the serendipitous moments every friend-finding app has dreamed of.

Since Swarm launched this summer, it has fared okay in the App Store charts. Swarm dropped out of the App Store Top 1000 early, but has held tight to a Top 100 spot within the Social Networking category. It's worth noting, however, that initial App Store reviews were terrible, but seem to have improved. Like with Facebook's new standalone Messenger app, it seems that app users aren't big fans of having two apps in the place of one. With its increased focus on the check-in process, something early Foursquare users loved, Swarm seems to be heading in the right direction. And to some, an easily accessible "nearby friends" feature could be a killer app of its own.

An updated Swarm app should be available shortly in the App Store. Foursquare wouldn't provide any further information on when or if a similar feature would be coming to Android.