Roamz: Know more about the neighborhood you're in

A new iPhone app from Australia combines local information from all over into a one-stop snapshot of a neighborhood.

I like Facebook. And Foursquare, and Twitter, and Instagram. I use all of them on my iPhone. And I'm intrigued by Roamz, a new iPhone application that weaves updates and photos from all of them into one stream about what's going on in your immediate vicinity.

Roamz
Roamz melds local information from multiple sources. Harry McCracken/CNET

The app, which debuted at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last week, was created by a startup based in Sydney, Australia. It detects your location and displays items from the aforementioned services that have been geotagged as having happened nearby. It also includes its own feature for sharing updates and photos relating to your activities.

While Roamz certainly feels social, it's not a social network per se. You can connect it to your Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter accounts, but it shows stuff from everyone who's shared it publicly, not just your friends. You also can't friend or follow other Roamz members, at least yet. It's about neighborhoods and the things going on in them, not specific people.

At first, I thought Roamz would be most useful as a practical guide to things I might want to do in a particular area. Instead, what I like about it is how it summarizes the disparate establishments that make up a neighborhood, from restaurants and bars to beauty parlors and art schools and including both ones I know about already and ones I'd never pay attention to otherwise. The local color can be fascinating. (If you simply don't care about a particular type of business, such as "Travel & Lodging," you can turn it off, although I found that Roamz doesn't always categorize places accurately.)

So far, the app has a fairly sparse feel, at least in the areas I've been when I've checked it out. (When I tried it during Web 2.0 at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco, it delivered more content than it does when I use it at my home in a sleepy Bay Area suburb, but it still wasn't teeming with activity.) And it isn't a source of up-to-the-moment information: The areas I've visited have been dominated by items from days or weeks ago.

Still, I'm having fun with Roamz and think the idea is full of potential. If it gets meatier and faster, it could be one of the first apps I turn to when I'm out and about.

 

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