…you’re just looking in the wrong place.
What has perplexed many of the tech bloggers about Google’s claim of 9 million latitude users is that they don’t see people using the service. I admit that after inviting a few hundred of my Google contacts to latitude and as people started checking in, I saw a similar screen shot as MG Siegler did where the majority of his friends’ “stale location” was often 1-2 years ago and no one, recently had shared with Google just where in the world they were aside from a few people today who were testing out the latest iPhone app.
I embraced Latitude for a few days last year while testing a new Android device. I manually updated my latitude location from time to time via the web or iPhone as a way to get more relevant search results. Honestly, I never went back for one reason.
Latitude wasn’t a check in. It was a street level “where are you” and it only works well if you allow it to run in the background.
Until yesterday, you couldn’t auto-update Latitude from your iPhone anywhere you went. I don’t underestimate that there are early adopters running Android and Blackberry but there’s a reason most location services are iPhone-only or iPhone-exclusive at launch. if you split up the numbers, I have my doubts that more Android users use Foursquare than iPhone users. Just my guess.
So, where are those 9 million users?
They’re all Android users and not the kind of Android users that would use check-in applications or share where they are with friends via Facebook places. In fact, so many “regular joes” are using Latitude that a simple Google search for the enabling it on Android has more results from bloggers that give how-tos on disabling it. It would appear that most Android users enable it when fooling around with Google Maps not realizing what it’s doing and, since your Google Account is integrated into your Android phone during setup, people will enable it, close maps and forget that Google is tracking and sometimes publishing that data to their Google profiles.
This post, gives info on disabling Google Latitude from your Android device and I hope more Android users that don’t want to be tracked down to the meter of where they are in the world, follow these instructions.
Some of my friends who aren’t technical at all, have never downloaded an app from Android marketplace and have don’t even check their Gmail on the phone have Latitude enabled. I’ve seen it over a dozen times with friends of mine who are outside of the bubble with Android phones that are, by most valley standards, “underpowered and running Android 1.5″ Latitude is still collecting data and sharing it with Google.
That’s where the 9 million users are. It’s not valley folk with iPhones using Foursquare. It’s not hackers running Android. It’s regular folk who enable it on day one and forget it’s running. They benefit by personalized search results and Google benefits by a growing location database and statistics on where people go and for how long.
I’m running Google Latitude in the background on my iPhone and have been since yesterday morning. It’ll be interesting to see if it actually makes my life any better or just benefits Google but, one thing is for certain; most of the people I care about won’t be using it. If Josh is at the pizza place or starbucks won’t really be apparent because he’s not at a “location” he’s at a lat/long and, though it’s precise, knowing he’s driving down the 101 is far less awesome than him posting a photo of “the largest burrito” ever with a location of “el Farolito”
Here’s my Google Profile. I have it showing “city-level” data for now but i might expand that to an exact address in the future.
I think Google Latitude will evolve and grow in its user-base but I think that even Google doesn’t know what to do with all of that data. They will soon enough.