Like many others who have installed iOS 5, I downloaded Apple’s new Find my Friends app, which works in a similar way to Google Latitude but only on iOS 5 devices. The idea is that it you have the app running all of the time in the background so your friends can find you, and vice versa. There are privacy controls in place so you can turn it on or off, or only grant temporary access.
The problem is inviting friends in the first place – you have to enter their email addresses in turn. Find My Friends does not support importing your social graph from any other services like Twitter and Facebook, save for your own address book (and even then you have to select people manually). Plus, when adding people, you have no idea if they already use it as there’s no checking – you may end up sending emails to friends who don’t even have iPhones, never mind the app installed.
Without an easy way to find friends already using the service, it’s basically useless to me.
Unfortunately Apple just doesn’t seem to get social tools. This is their third separate social network, after Game Center and iTunes Ping. Ping is the only one that lets you import friends from Twitter – and there’s no linking. I can’t even import my friends from Game Center into Find My Friends, nevermind Twitter (despite Twitter support being integrated into iOS 5). Admittedly, Game Center will allow you to add people from your contacts who also use it, as well as recommending other people it thinks you may know, but its list is still separate from Ping and Find my Friends.
As it stands, to me Find My Friends is a poor relation to Google Latitude, which has the benefit of being widely available on Android phones, and doesn’t hold a candle to Foursquare which offers more features. Both Google Latitude and Foursquare have ways of importing friends from an existing social graph – Foursquare will even notify you if any of your existing Facebook friends sign up so that you can add them. It’s a shame – it could be a really useful tool for finding our friends in the real world, if only we could find them in the virtual world first.