However, the location-based mobile social networks--or "LoMoSos"--are expensive to use so far, and wireless carriers have been slow to adopt them.
One of the first such products is from WaveMarket, an Emeryville, Calif.-based software maker that invented a way for cell phone users to upload their location, along with photos and text messages, onto interactive street maps viewable by millions of other cell phone users.
LoMoSos have their roots in Web logs, or blogs, which are Web sites where people muse on topics for anyone to read. Blogs generally have not involved mapping technology, and they are usually created and viewed by PC users.
"We're adding location to blogging, something that's really never been done before," a WaveMarket representative said.
Cell phone service providers have high hopes for such, which they are counting on to offset dramatic, competition-driven declines in the price they charge for cell phone calls, their primary moneymaker. Giving LoMoSos more appeal to cell phone carriers is the fact they're based on the idea behind " ," or mobile Web logs. Moblogs are basically online photo journals, or blogs that feature plenty of digital photos.
So far, only one carrier, Canada's BellMobility, has launched a LoMoSo service using WaveMarket's gear. In May, the carrier introduced MapMe, a limited service that provides maps and directions with icons containing contact information for local points of interest.
South Korea's SK Telecom plans to use WaveMarkets' WaveAlert product to send short text messages to subscribers when they're near a friend or a place of interest.
Perhaps one reason for the slow uptake by carriers is the cost to consumers. Bell Mobility's MapMe costs $5 for a one-time software download, then 25 cents each time someone requests MapMe for a location, directions to a destination, or any number of other features, according to the carrier's Web site. There can be up to $6 in additional charges per session for the data that's been downloaded. Bell Mobility is trying to ease the pain by selling bundles of such airtime for $5 a month.