Have you ever been in a situation where you've tried to track down a friend—at a mall, busy metropolis, or convention, for example—but the din made it hard to hear their locations as you shouted "huh?" into your phone? Google Latitude 2.0 (free) aims to alleviate that frustration by letting you track friends, who are also Google Latitude users, over your phone's 3G/Wi-Fi connection. I tested the iPhone version, and it's also available for Android.
Setup and Options
After you download Google Latitude 2.0 (free), the app prompts you to give it access to your current location; you log into your Goggle account after doing so. You're then taken to the Google Latitude main screen, which features its logo in white lettering against a blue banner background, a gears icon (which gives you options for manually setting your location, using road or satellite maps, miles or meters, and more), and a friends icon (where you can add a buddy's e-mail address or select someone from your address book). When Google Latitude users receive invites, they're presented with three options: "Accept and share back," "Accept, but hide my location," and "Don't accept." Friends appear on the main screen once they've accepted the invites. And their distance from you, as well as how long they've been there, is displayed beneath their names. There were a few instances when a friend would add me, but the invite took a long time to appear.
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Once you are connected with a friend, you simply tap your pal's name to view his/her location on the map. With my iPhone connected to the office wireless network, I was able to quickly locate a friend on 61st St. and 1st Ave. from my 28th St. location. I liked that the map highlighted other items of note in the area (such as the NY Public Library on 58th St.). But when I compared my iPhone app versus my pal's Android app, I noticed that the Android map included additional highlighted buildings. It wasn't a gaping difference, but I would've liked that information on my handset.
Additionally, you can also log in to the Google Latitude Web page () to locate friends via your PC. In a future update, I'd like Google Latitude to support photos of places in the area, (as Google Maps do), as well as the ability to sign in with multiple accounts for people who have friends scattered across different e-mail addresses.
When on the map, you can click the arrow above each contact to bring up extra features. Here you can view their profiles, map directions to their location, send an e-mail, or apply individual privacy settings.
Naturally, there will be times when you don't want to broadcast your location; thankfully, Google gives you the option to manage your visibility. You can restrict sharing on a citywide level (friends can't see the exact street), block background updating (which lets you manually update, saving battery life), or completely pull yourself off the grid. The flexibility is very much welcomed.
The Lowdown on Latitude
Despite a few invites being lost in the ether, Google Latitude is a solid application for coordinating with friends while out and about. It's easy to setup and plots out locations very quickly. However, there are features and fixes that I'd like to see implemented in a future update— mainly multiple account log in and the occaisonal slow invite reception. But all in all, Google Latitude 2.0 is a solid app for social butterflies looking to connect.