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Gowalla debuts Travel Channel deal, Android app

The location-based mobile networking app has launched its first non-iPhone app, and is making it clear that it's gunning for the same media partnerships that rival Foursquare is going for.

The Android mobile app for game-like "check-in" app Gowalla is now live, as Mashable noted over the weekend. Launching its first non-iPhone app is an important step for the start-up as it competes fiercely with several other location-based mobile companies that are all trying to break away from the pack.

Additionally, Gowalla is set to announce a partnership with the Travel Channel for its series "Food Wars," a competitive reality show that pits chefs against one another in blind taste tests. When a Gowalla user checks into a "Food Wars"-featured restaurant, they'll receive Travel Channel-provided information about the eatery's role in the show, sponsored virtual goods (the Gowalla universe is scattered with virtual items that can be "picked up" and "dropped off" when checked into different venues), and "passport stamps" related to "Food Wars."

The partnership is in line with Gowalla's self-crafted image as a travel and exploration guide in contrast to its rival Foursquare, which has focused on meeting up with friends and competition over "badges" earned by checking into different locations.

"We definitely like that passport metaphor," Gowalla CEO Josh Williams told CNET last week, noting that the company's party at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) in its hometown of Austin, Texas, next week will have an exotic "tiki room" theme.

Gowalla, which grew out of Facebook app development company AlamoFire, raised an $8.4 million Series B funding round late last year. It's better-funded than Foursquare, and showed an early advantage in marketing and design, but Foursquare has gotten a big push from high-profile media partnerships: a deal with TV channel Bravo led to an on-air commercial for the app, and restaurant guide Zagat has a sponsored Foursquare "badge" for users who check into multiple Zagat-rated establishments.

The Travel Channel deal shows that Gowalla is going after the same sorts of partnerships to break into the mainstream. The heated competition between these two start-ups isn't slowing down anytime soon.