How to use Foursquare's Explore feature

Until recently only iPhone and Android users were able to take advantage of Foursquare's Explore feature in an official app. With the official BlackBerry app getting an update that includes Explore, there is no better time to learn how to use it.

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Being able to discover new places in your city, or a new city you are visiting can be challenging. With the growing availability of mobile apps that look to provide custom search results of nearby restaurants and bars, staying up on all the different options can be time-consuming.

Foursquare rolled out its solution to this problem earlier this year by adding a feature called Explore to its lineup. With the BlackBerry app having received an update that brought Explore to the platform, catching up with Android and iOS, now is a great time to cover just how you use Explore.

The first thing you will need to do is make sure your device is running the most current version of the official Foursquare app. You can do that by visiting http://foursquare.com/download/.

Once you are updated and logged in, navigate to the Explore section of the app, you can find it by selecting the compass icon.

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Here you are presented with a default list of venues Foursquare has found that may be of interest to you. These results aren't just the nearest restaurants, bars, or shops; Foursquare uses an algorithm that factors in your check-in, your friends' check-in history, as well as many other factors to determine which venues are a best match for you.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

You may not always want your Explore results to use your friends' check-ins, or perhaps you want to expand the results to include Foursquare users as a whole in the results. Thankfully, Foursquare has made it possible to adjust Explore settings. To enter the settings screen for Explore, tap on the settings icon as pictured above.

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Here you can adjust the how close or far you want Explore results to be from your current location. You can also adjust the results to include everyone, you and your friends, or just you in the calculation.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

The results you see will show you the venue, a popular tip, as well as which of your friends and how many times they have been to that venue. It will also show you how many times you have been to any of the results, as indicated above by the green bar above the McDonald's listing.

You may notice that the BlackBerry application currently lacks the settings panel altogether, and that the iPhone app only provides the distance setting (this option will be back at some point), and while your Explore results will be effected somewhat, the Explore feature is still something you can use to come up with solid recommendations. Here's why. The search bar.

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The search bar in Explore not only searches venues and categories, it also searches any Tips left on nearby venues.

For example, you could search for Friday while viewing the Food category. Explore will go out,  use its fancy algorithms as well as your search term, and return nearby venues that you would like, which also happen to have a Tip with the word "Friday" in it. Often times, the only reason someone leaves a tip on Foursquare with the day of a week is due to a special only ran on particular nights, or a suggested night to stay away from the venue due to it being overrun by the senior center playing bingo. Of course, you can search for your favorite Thai dish, espresso drink, college night, or whatever else floats your boat.

We hope that you are starting to see exactly what Explore brings to the table. It is a powerful feature that is only going to get better the more you use Foursquare. The more you check in, the more customized the results become.


 

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