Swarm received an update this week that takes the app in a new direction. The latest version of the app deemphasizes location sharing with friends, mayorships, and sticker and coin collecting. Those elements are still there, mostly tucked away behind the ‘Friends’ tab, but the focus has shifted. Now, the app centers around the creation of a personal timeline as a sort of journal of places you’ve visited.
Swarm’s main interface has been simplified. There are just two tabs: ‘Me’ and ‘Friends’ with a check-in button between them. At the top of the ‘Me’ tab is a card-style map of your current location with the total number of your check-ins, places visited, and categories of places visited, each of which is tappable for browsing where you’ve been. Tapping on the map expands it showing nearby places you’ve visited with a list of them that you can drill into to get more details on past check-ins. If you want to explore a different location, zoom out from the map’s local view to pick somewhere else.
Going back to the ‘Me’ tab, there is a new timeline below the map card of your most recent check-ins. You can scroll through the timeline chronologically to relive recent stops you’ve made, but even more powerful is search, which lets you look for past check-ins by location, category, the friends who checked in with you, and more. Swarm search has become my ‘outboard brain’ for travel reminding me of restaurants and other favorite spots in cities I don’t visit often.
The ‘Friends’ tab is dominated by a chronological list of your friends’ check-ins. There’s also a card similar to the map card in the ‘Me’ tab, which opens the leaderboard if you like competing with your friends to see who can collect the most coins with their check-ins.
Whether you like the new design of Swarm will depend largely on how you use it. I and some of my friends have used Swarm primarily as a sort of personal travel journal or location bookmarking service and have ignored the leaderboards and collecting aspects. Apparently, we weren’t alone. However, if you prefer the gamification offered by past versions, it’s still there, but it’s no longer the easy path.
I like the changes to Swarm, especially the ease with which I recall past places I visited. Still, I feel like too much of the old app has been swept under the metaphorical rug in a way that won’t satisfy users who like those features and could also hold back Swarm from becoming the personal travel journal that the update suggests it’s intended to be. Nonetheless, if you were put off by the competitive social aspects of Swarm in the past, this week’s update is worth a look.