Loopt was one of the first companies to strut its stuff in an onstage demo at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June, and Sam Altman, the CEO of the location-aware social networking app, said the iPhone version is "the best version of Loopt we've ever created."
Thanks to an early release of iTunes 7.7 (for Mac and Windows) and the App Store, that version of Loopt is available--for free--for anyone willing to risk the unofficial firmware upgrade today or the official Friday upgrade.
I've done the former, and Loopt's friend-tracking application works as seamlessly and as powerfully as promised. The application integrates with iPhone's GPS and touch-screen camera technology in a rich, immensely usable native application that makes finding friends and nearby businesses easy. Loopt also supplies mapping, directions, and restaurant reviews using Microsoft Virtual Earth and Yelp. Directions are instantaneously mapped on Google.
By far the most compelling aspect is Loopt's capbility to track your circle of friends and show you their whereabouts. A combination of GPS-mapping and standard social networking attributes such as messaging, leaving comments, and click-to-call form the backbone of the opt-in friend-finding service. CNET's video of CEO Sam Altman's demo at the WWDC is a fine example of how Loopt can be used to make impromptu plans with nearby contacts.
To get extra social with friends who aren't on Loopt, the application can be configured to auto-update your status and whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook.