Gone are the days when your circle of friends was dictated by the houses on the block or the folks in your neighborhood. Check out this great group of apps for expanding and maintaining your favorite friendships with the help of the web and your iPhone or iPad.
Facebook (Free) – The reigning undisputed champion of social networking, it would be unfair to leave Facebook out of the discussion, even though you probably already know about it. Not only are Facebook’s built-in features such as event planning and photo sharing elaborate and well executed, but the near-limitless amount of apps and custom settings allow you to use this service exactly how you want, even if that’s completely different than the person next to you. And considering that the Mark Zuckerberg-led giant just dropped one billion dollars on photo-sharing app Instagram, this big blue internet powerhouse shows no sign of slowing down.
Foursquare (Free) – Your mobile phone has a GPS in it, so put it to work by signing up for Foursquare. This app lets you virtually “check in” to any physical location you visit, from bars and restaurants to shops, concert venues and more. See what your friends have been up to and broadcast your location so that they can meet up with you later. To help you remember to reach in your pocket activate the app, Foursquare will let you know about local deals and recommend you new places based on where you and your friends spend your time.
GroupMe (Free) – While social networks are great for keeping in touch in the long term, sometimes you need to send a quick message to a select crew of people and be sure it got to them. Enter text messaging, and the handy texting app GroupMe. Assign any combination of your contacts to a single text message chain and engage them in a group chat with ease. An indispensable service for making plans together or keeping track of everyone at a crowded event, it’s amazing this simple concept isn’t a regular feature of modern smartphones.
Highlight (Free) – When you’re out on the move, Highlight is taking notice of not only what you’re doing and who you’re nearby but might not be noticing. This clever app is always studying you and other Highlight users, and letting you know when your friends and potential friends are someplace close. To entice you into being a bit more social than you may otherwise be, it will drop hints about what makes these otherwise anonymous passersby worth your time, like letting you know you were actually at the same event or are into the same hobbies. Though it sounds a tad stalkery, they take extra pains to make sure it’s safe and fun, and an entirely opt-in experience. And unlike Foursquare, it’s less concerned with what you want to do than who you should be doing it with.
GetGlue (Free) – Like Foursquare for mass media entertainment, GetGlue for iPad will help you keep track of more than just a few of your favorite things, such as TV shows, movies, music, and books. Then the app will share your list of what you’re currently into with everyone in your network, so they can follow along. Use it to see what you have in common, and to check your friends’ accounts for their personal recommendations. GetGlue will get in on the action as well, noting your likes and dislikes and using its recommendation engine to fill you in on what you’ve been missing.
Turntable.fm (Free) – It’s club night in the comfort of your own home (or office, or headphones on the bus…) when you jump into a Turntable.fm room with all of your buds and listen live to your favorite tunes as a group. Like a private radio station, everyone listening gets to take turns picking the music, and you can rate the current DJ’s performance by bobbing your avatar’s head and throwing out a thumbs-up.
Now that you’ve got all of these friends and you’ve lined up every wavelength of your collective hive-mind, maybe you can all collaborate on the next great iPhone app?
Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd & film buff based in Los Angeles. When he’s not playing with his phone, it’s because the movie has started. Shhhhh!