Here's the thing you have to realize when you're just one user...
You're just one user.
I know I'm not a typical Foursquare user. I've been rabidly checking in from the beginning, no fatigue at all, and I love sharing where I am and seeing where everyone else is.
I also didn't really count on it for recommendations that often. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty awesome for reqs and if I do want one, I go to Foursquare, but I'll depart from the NYC norm and admit that I'm not really a foodie. I'm a bit of a creature of habit when it comes to places. Everyone in NYC thinks they're a foodie. They also think they're smarter than average.
So, for recommendations, this pretty much kicks Yelp's ass. Told you so. The SinglePlatform Menu integration really helps here as well, because anytime I do use it for a recommendation, I always look at the menu.
This isn't typical of the rest of the world, however, and if Foursquare is going to grow into its valuation, they needed to expand its utility to the people who didn't want to check in, but just wanted to lurk and find out about new places.
Just like their website upgrade to the map view, this is a full committment to that. No half-steps here.
First off, the app is definitely more visually appealing. It's cleaner and feels snappier. There's much more of an emphasis on Explore. That tab is now front and center, so now you're more apt to open it when you're trying to figure out where to go, instead of just when you've already gotten there. I have a feeling that people who don't want to checkin will find the app a lot more useful.
One thing I feel like it loses, however, is telling me exactly what I want to know about what my friends are up to. It's a lot more social now, and the stream feels more like Path or Facebook with photos and who's friending who notifications, but that's not really what I cared about related to friends.
To me, the whole point of seeing friends in Foursquare was knowing where they are--and the more of them you can squeeze into each inch of the timeline, the more signal you get. Signal, to me, is a nearby friend you might want to connect with in person--so if I see more locations with friends in the timeline, there's more of a chance I can find someone to run into. You can't sort by Nearby anymore and it's harder to visually scan the timeline for a nearby person. There's other stuff in it now that is social but less useful for that purpose--likes, more photos, friend connections.
Your friends, perhaps counter-intuitively, have now moved to the explore tab on the map. They appear as little pins on the explore map that can be hard to click if they're surrounded by other pins. I don't know if I would have assumed that they'd be here. Finding where my friends are isn't really "Explore" to me, as I'm not exploring my friends. I'm just trying to figure out where everyone is. The new app definitely makes it harder to find nearby people given that I now have to click on each of their heads to see where they are. I also have to keep clikcing "search" to visualize where they might be in other neighborhoods.
What would help is if I could take friend notifications out of the timeline--kind of like toggling between interactions and replies on Twitter. I don't care that you made Foursquare friends. That's low signal to me. I'm glad you have friends, but this isn't a social friend discovery network. I'm never going to friend a stranger on here, so showing me strangers isn't useful.
The app is clearly made to encourage interactions, which is great from a user experience. Just yesterday, I met up with Andrew Parker through a Foursquare comment thread. It was serendipitous and totally awesome. If you believe that connecting to people around locality makes your world easier to use, new Foursquare is definitely going to make your city a lot smaller. I just hope that it retains enough of the geo experience to make the kinds of interactions that people are having very different than on Path or Facebook or even Instagram. Photos are cool, but I don't want this to become a photo app.
Overall, though, this is definitely the direction where Foursquare needs to go. People who are checking in will continue to checkin, but to be a mainstream app, it needs to be about leveraging the data they have and connecting you to places. Because I'm friends with a number of folks on the Foursquare team on Foursquare itself, I saw firsthand how late they've been working over the last couple of months and they deserve a big round of applause for getting this out the door and for putting every aspect of the experience on the table. If we've learned anything so far, they'll continue to iterate and tweak the experience, so I'm looking forward to hearing about what they learn from this new version and how they move forward on the product.