Google Latitude is now live, a new service from Google that allows you to send your location to Google Maps and share it with friends via many mobile phones (not the iPhone yet, but that’s coming). Greg Sterling will have our own review of the service posted later today.
Latitude adds location tracking to the Google Maps mobile application and to iGoogle on the desktop. You can track yourself and anyone with a Google account who has either installed the latest 3.0 version of mobile Maps or a new iGoogle Latitude gadget. The way it works is that when you start Maps you are prompted if you want to join Latitude and "See your friends on the map". If you accept you are asked for your Google account credentials and then shown a tag list of your Gmail contacts . Check off the contacts you want to share location info with and Google sends each one an email inviting them to join Latitude and share their location with you. If they accept, you can see them on the map and they can see you. Location sharing in Latitude is strictly between friends by mutual consent, it's not possible to share your location publicly. Latitude has the ability to continue sharing your location in the background. When you close the app you are prompted whether to allow this or not. If you decide to allow background sharing I suggest you go into Map's Settings menu and deselect "Use GPS" which will force Maps and Latitude to use cell IDs to locate you which should help battery life considerably.
None of this is really new, in fact it's very similar to what Mologogo, Socialight and Loopt have been doing for a couple of years. None of these services have really caught on in a big way. However, I think Latitude will be huge. Previous friend tracking apps have had a hard time growing because there is a lot of friction to the network building process. First you have to know about the service and install the mobile app, then you have convince your friends to do the same, and then everyone needs to run the app all the time. It's hard to create much of a network that way. With Google the network is already there in Gmail which has around 100 million users. Google's mobile Maps application is surely one of the most popular of installable apps as well. Virtually everyone knows someone with a Gmail account. The network is huge and Latitude is highly viral in that it offers to invite everyone in your contact list whether they have a Google account or not.
Sharing your location is a little scary, Latitude attempts to reduce the fear by an emphasis on security which is quite fine grained in the service. First there is the double opt-in, both parties must agree to simultaneously share their location, users can chose to share only their city rather than an exact location or even manually enter a location which could, of course, be anywhere including places where they aren't
I'm betting that Google has big plans for Latitude particularly in the social networking area. The benefits to Google of knowing the users location are pretty obvious when it comes to ad targeting so they have a lot of motivation to make this succeed. The beginnings of a social network are already visible in Latitute. You can set your status and upload a photo from within Maps. Your friend's photos and status appear on the map and their Google profiles are a click away. Latitude also gives you options to connect with nearby friends using Gmail, Google Talk or SMS. I can see further possibilities for social networking in the form of integration with Google's FriendConnect and OpenSocial and maybe even Google's neglected stepchild of a social network, Orkut.
Latitude is available now for color BlackBerry devices, Windows Mobile 5.0 and above and most Symbian S60 devices by visiting google.com/latitude with our mobile browser. Install the Latitude iGoogle gadget by visiting the same URL on your PC. Latitude is rumored to be part of the 1.1 RC33 update for Android that could be rolled out as soon as tomorrow. Google also promises support soon for the iPhone and iPod Touch and "many" Sony Ericsson phones.
Lets see what google says about google latitude.
With Google Latitude, you can:
- See where your friends are and what they are up to
- Quickly contact them with SMS, IM, or a phone call
- Control what your location is and who gets to see it
Location sharing starts only when both you and a friend agree. Invite friends via email or easily add them from your Gmail contacts.
You can share, set, or hide your location - or turn off Google Latitude - from the privacy menu. You can also hide your location or share only a city-level location with certain friends.
Create a status message and upload your photo within Latitude. It also syncs directly with Google Talk. Check your friends' status messages to see what your friends are up to.
Contact your friends
Quickly contact your friends with an SMS, IM, or phone call. You can also get directions to lead you to your friends.
Mobile: Supported phones
Google Latitude is available on the following mobile devices wherever Google Maps for mobile v3.0 and above is supported:
- Android-powered devices with Maps v3.0 and above. G1 users in the US will be receiving Maps v3.0 in a system update soon.
- Most color BlackBerry devices
- Most Windows Mobile 5.0 and above devices. Note: Some Windows Mobile devices don't support cell-ID location detection.
- Most Symbian S60 devices
- iPhone and iPod touch devices with the Google Mobile App (in the US)
- Many Sony Ericsson devices
Note: Some older versions of these devices cannot support Google Maps for mobile version 3.0 and above and will receive the most recent compatible version without Google Latitude.
iGoogle gadget: Sharing location from iGoogle
To share your location using the Google Latitude iGoogle gadget, you can either set your location manually or have it detected automatically using Gears for your supported web browser. Gears is a browser plug-in with a Geolocation API that allows Latitude to detect your approximate location using Google's WiFi location database.
To have your location detected automatically, Latitude and Gears require wireless access or access to a WiFi network router to use Google's WiFi location database. Use the following general steps to start sharing your location automatically:
1. Add the Latitude gadget to your iGoogle homepage.
2. Install Gears by going to http://gears.google.com/ or going to the gadget's Privacy tab and selecting 'Learn more' > 'Get Gears.'
3. When prompted by Gears for permission, allow Latitude to access your location.
4. Check that you have allowed the gadget to detect your location in the Privacy tab. You may need to refresh iGoogle.
You can always change your privacy settings at any time from the privacy menu.
watch youtube video about google latitude.
Enjoy Google Latitude on your phone, PC, or both.
From your mobile phone - View your friends' locations and status messages and share yours with them. (Supported phones)
From your computer - View your friends' locations and status messages on a full screen even without a compatible phone or data plan. Click here to see your friends from your PC.