Should Apple buy Foursquare?

CEO Tim Cook has plenty of cash to blow, and the mobile check-in service is one of the hottest of its kind.

By May 2, 2012 11:13AM

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, who has made recent appearances at high-profile events like the TIME 100 Gala and the White House Correspondents' Dinner, is the newest tech industry darling. With such a promising upward trajectory, and an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion valuation, Crowley's check-in service is at the center of the latest tech blogsophere conversation: Some people are suggesting that Apple (AAPL), with its more than $100 billion in cash reserves, would be wise to acquire Foursquare. The app -- which allows users to tag themselves at the restaurants, bars and other local businesses they frequent, rewarding them with badges like "Barista" (for coffee fiends) or "Pizzaiolo" (for pie connoisseurs) -- is a hot commodity, and has accumulated more than 20 million users worldwide since its 2009 launch.


Would Apple be wise to spring for Foursquare?


It would make so much sense: Apple should pay top dollar for Foursquare, says Mor Naaman at GigaOm. Think about it: With Foursquare, Apple gets "the holy grail of advertising" in terms of consumer information, and will gain the ability to track the businesses that customers frequent to deliver better iAds (eating into a "good chunk" of Google's (GOOG) revenue). The iPhone will also get "superior local search," far better than any other recommendations service today, including Yelp (YELP). And considering Apple's past failings with social media (remember Ping?) and a Foursquare dev team "that is social to the core," $2 billion out of Apple's pocket seems like a no brainer. And if the Cupertino giant acquired both Foursquare and mobile-payment system, Square? That'd be the "holy trinity."


But a partnership might be a better option: Apple might not need to spend money to take advantage of Foursquare, says MacStories. Merely integrating the service into the iPhone might be enough. Just look at Twitter, which "didn't get acquired by Apple, yet its mobile usage has surged" since it began allowing iPhone users to tweet without closing other apps. While not quite on the same level as Twitter -- with its 140 million active users -- Foursquare would certainly "make for a possible third-party candidate." What's there to lose?

If Apple doesn't, Facebook should: The massive social network recently snatched up Instagram, and can now "control a vast majority of the social media world," says Nick Renna at Techi. Even though Facebook currently has check-ins, the service is slow and unfriendly. Foursquare's check-ins, by contrast, are "actually fun to use." Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare would have be "trifecta" of social media: content, photos and location-based posts. Together they'd "conquer the internet."


Best Opinion: GigaOm, MacStories, Techi

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