iPhone again: GPS and the future of Facebook

Although yesterday’s Apple demos went on a bit, the one for social network Loopt was interesting. Thanks to the iPhone’s GPS, it enables you to see your social networking friends on a map and message them – so for example if you’re in New York with time to kill, you can see if anyone you know is nearby and say “fancy a beer?”

So far there’s been lots of talk about location-aware internet stuff, but it’s hardly captured the mainstream. Location-aware Facebook – or a new rival that does the Facebook thing better, which could be Loopt; it’s available as a Facebook app already – could be massive. And that’s just the most obvious example. Scratch your head for a bit and all kinds of interesting location-aware apps spring to mind. Looking at a car and want to know if there are other, similar ones nearby in other dealers? Want to find a restaurant near you but would like to see the menu, customer comments and so on? You get the idea.

I know Loopt isn’t iPhone-exclusive, but it’s at its most impressive on the Apple machine – which, of course, also offers a peerless mobile internet experience (especially now it’s 3G). Same applies to other location-aware mobile services. So what does the iPhone bring to the party? Combine a good mobile web browser, easy application development (so I’m told; I’m not a developer) with access to the GPS functionality, reasonable price plans, low purchase cost and the likelihood that the iPhone’s going to sell absolute shitloads, and you’ve got a potentially amazing platform for location-aware internet stuff.

None of these things are new, but then Apple doesn’t usually invent; it perfects – and to me, it appears that Apple may have done exactly that with the mobile internet. Things are about to get very interesting.