Explore Cities Like a Local With NowFloats

It’s amazing how, today, with a smartphone you have information about virtually everything at your fingertips wherever you go. And location-based apps take things a step further by allowing you to find friends nearby, search for restaurants in your area and see how bad traffic is en route to your next destination. But have you ever wished your phone could just tell you about great things to eat/see/do/buy around where you are, when you’re there?

That’s exactly what NowFloats is all about — it’s a new, personal way to discover what’s interesting wherever you are, through tips and thoughts shared by other users, and updates on events and special offers. It’s perfect for exploring cities you’re unfmailiar with or even stumbling upon something you never knew about in your own neighbourhood. Let’s take a look at how it works, shall we?

Overview

NowFloats is a free app for Windows Phone 7 and up, that allows you to share your thoughts about what’s happening around you and see what others are sharing there too. It’s more personal than social in the sense that it doesn’t need you to have friends on it to get any use out of it. All you’ve to do is get out and explore!

NowFloats has a bold identity and looks great on Windows Phone

NowFloats has a bold identity and looks great on Windows Phone

Getting started

When you run the app for the first time, you’ll be prompted to create an account and log in, but won’t be asked to find/import your friends from any social networks or email accounts, because this isn’t about getting chatty with people you know. NowFloats will then show you thoughts and images (called Floats) shared by other users of the app around you within a radius of your choosing.

Viewing textual and visual Floats from other users

Viewing textual and visual Floats from other users

Floats generally describe users’ thoughts and experiences in those places at the time they were posted. They could also be reviews of anything from restaurants to movie theaters, or even recommendations of similar outlets and services.

For example, I came across posts about how great a local gig at my favorite pub was, how some folks chose to stay in during the Dussera festival in Bangalore because of the weather, and even a few photos from tech events in town. Floats can be commented on, voted up (Aired) or down (Sunk) depending on how relevant and meaningful they are, and expire after a few days if no one shows interest in them.

The interface

NowFloats looks really beautiful — the app design draws inspiration from the Windows Phone aesthetic and adds a bold dash of color to every screen. From the home screen, you can choose to create a new Float, view Floats around you, check out events within your location radius and even find local deals on everything from spa treatments to gadgets. The content looks gorgeous too, with clean layouts that make floats, event listings and offers a joy to browse through.

Float something!

Whenever you feel the urge to share something, you can quickly type it in or snap a photo to share with other NowFloats users, and it’ll be uploaded instantly with a geotag. This process on NowFloats is very focused — there’s no tagging of friends or hashtagging, or sharing to other social networks — and aims to help you express your feelings at that time and place as best as possible.

Composing and viewing a Float

Composing and viewing a Float

Get a lay of the land

Browsing the NowFloats universe of textual and visual Floats is a great way to understand what a city or neighborhood is all about. A quick perusal of Floats in my hometown, Bangalore, makes it clear that is India’s Silicon Valley — the buzz here is all about startups, tech expos and conventions, and traffic! You’ll also be able to find great places to eat at and concerts to check out — two other things the city is famous for.

Discover deals and events around you

Discover deals and events around you

Events and deals

If you’re traveling for work or a holiday, NowFloats makes for a handy guide on what you can take in during your spare time. Concerts, exhibitions, sales, food festivals — it’s all here. The Market is great too, if you’re looking to shop or have a local experience. I managed to find, within just a couple of miles from my home in Bangalore, India, a full spa day deal for just $8 (which is 10% of the actual price), a complete laptop service and a year’s subscription to a popular antivirus for just $10, and even a beginner’s course in 2D animation for the same price.

Using NowFloats

I found NowFloats very useful while exploring my own city, which is something I do fairly frequently on weekends. Most of the content in the app is set to expire upon becoming irrelevant, so you’re only shown recent Floats, up-to-date event information and valid deals. I was happy to come across a few offers that I was able to share with friends and even a few new restaurants and bars downtown.

More Floats and events

More Floats and events

NowFloats has just begun partnering with event and deal aggregators, and presently features content relevant only in India, and mostly India-based users too — which means those who’re trying the app outside the country will possibly find the NowFloats world rather lonely. I did too, as the app has only recently launched and hasn’t yet garnered users. Hopefully upcoming marketing efforts will change this.

Conclusion

If you travel a lot, or enjoy exploring cities, NowFloats will be right up your alley. It’s more of a local discovery app — like a crowdsourced city guide — than a social geolocation app like Foursquare or Gowalla, that I find interesting as a concept. What remains to be seen is how large and diverse its user base grows to be in the next few months, across Windows, Android and iOS platforms.

I’d definitely recommend trying the app and giving the developers feedback as they continue to build and improve it, as the idea behind NowFloats will make exploring our urban spaces a lot more interesting. Take it for a spin or several, and chronicle your local discoveries for others to find and enjoy.


Summary

NowFloats for Windows Phone allows you to share your thoughts about what's happening around you in cities familiar and unexplored, and see what others are sharing there too.

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