Apple to join the geolocation craze?

A patent filed for a social-networking service called iGroups would allow iPhone and other mobile-device users to stay in touch and share location updates.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
Apple iGroups network
iGroups is a social-networking and location-sharing app developed by Apple. Patently Apple

Looks like Apple may be the latest to succumb to the geomadness gripping the mobile-development space right now.

Patently Apple dug up an Apple patent application Thursday for a social-networking service called iGroups that uses geographic location data to connect iPhone and other mobile-device users.

iGroups would let friend groups attending an event to stay in touch and share information in real time. If that sounds familiar it's because similar geolocation apps that accomplish the same thing are popping up more frequently--apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, Loopt, and others. According to the patent, iGroups is a bit different underneath, however. Using Apple's MobileMe service, iGroups users who don't have GPS on their phone can still participate in the stream of information sharing with "virtual GPS," according to the patent.

Apple files for many patents, and just doing so doesn't automatically mean there's an actual product on the way. But this particular patent is interesting, not only because of the geofrenzy taking place right now, but because of what happened last summer. Though Google Voice getting rejected from the App Store got a lot more attention, Apple refused entry to Google Latitude on the iPhone too. Latitude allows users to broadcast their location to their friends, which sounds similar to iGroups.

Another clue there may be more to come on this front? Several months after the Latitude skirmish, Apple purchased a company called PlaceBase, and the founder and CEO Jaron Waldman, became a member of Apple's "Geo Team."