4 Ambient Social Location Apps for Finding People Around You

4 Ambient Social Location Apps for Finding People Around You

At SXSW Interactive 2012, ambient social location apps made their entrance into the app world. Names like HighlightBanjo and Glancee (now acquired by Facebook) were all touted as revolutionary people-tracking apps, enabling the SXSW attendees to find folks they were looking for at the crowded event. (Fun fact: Banjo creator Damien Patton developed his app out of frustration after he couldn’t locate his friend at Boston’s Logan Airport. They were using different social networks.)

After SXSW, ambient social location apps would enable any Joe to find friends and similar app users who are in the same vicinity. These apps are called several different things, including geo-social discovery- or location-based social apps, and they can be used to find old friends, to find new friends or even for dating.

While some people may find this trend a little creepy, millions of users have already downloaded these social apps (and there are several more still in development, such as the colorful Youhoo).

For those who consider themselves adventurous, want to get to know more people or meet up with current friends who are nearby, we’ve gathered a batch of social location apps to check out.


The Highlight app, the unofficial favorite from SXSW 2012, also requires a Facebook account. It then quickly uses your geolocation to find a nearby person using Highlight who has similar interests as you (such as your likes on Facebook). Highlight will show you a person’s profile whenever they come within distance. The idea is that you have the app running on your device all day, just to find those chosen few you might want to grab coffee with. However, Highlight can also notify you of nearby people you may not want to run into, like your recent ex or smelly coworker.

If you find someone new with an interesting profile, you can “highlight” that person to show that you’re interested in meeting him or her, and in turn someone might “highlight” you. Think of it is human bookmarking at its finest. (Free for iPhone)


This social location app uses all kinds of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and foursquare, giving you the extreme likelihood that you’ll be able to find some of your friends. To locate fellow Banjo users, you can search within the social circle–limiting options of Everyone, Friends Only or Only Me.

Banjo doesn’t give direct locations or addresses (which is probably a good thing); however it does let users type in a destination and see who’s around, such as the Union Square area or a concert venue.

Banjo doesn't drain the battery quite as fast as Highlight. This is a plus, considering you’re likely to leave an ambient social location app open without even knowing it. (Free for Android and iPhone)


For those looking for a date or adventurous new friends, they should check out Blendr. This app was developed by the creator of Grindr, a social dating app aimed at homosexual men. In Blendr, your profile can consist of your interests, gender, sexual orientation and what you are looking for—chat, dates, friends, networking or even a relationship.

Though Blendr offers thorough privacy settings, be prepared to receive off-putting messages from people you connect with on the app. But hey, that’s what blocking is for. (Free for iPhone)


Though foursquare is not truly an ambient social location app, it's the name that helped kick off geolocation apps. Foursquare (also a SXSW star from 2009) lets you check in to locations and view where your other foursquare users (namely, your friends) are checking in. The app makes social networking a competitive game, in a sense, where you can oust people to become "mayor" of your local pizza place, dive bar or even a civic center—just by visiting the location more than anyone else.

Along with showing off your accolades to your friends, you can also receive some discounts at participating businesses, so it’s not all just for show. The app itself also gives its users various badges for checking into multiple places or frequent check-ins with the same person. (Free for Android and iOS)

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