SXSW may have started as a music festival, but the tech geeks have taken over, armed with iPhones and a penchant for digitally-enhanced social networking. As the launchpad for apps like Twitter and Foursquare, SXSW has become a petri-dish for supercharged startups, with conference attendees eager to try new things. There’s a slew of iPhone apps competing for your attention at SXSW this year, some familiar and some fresh-faced. Here’s a few useful apps for SXSW this year, and a few potential rising stars.
SXSW GO (Free)
The official app from SXSW, this mobile tool is a one-stop shop for attendees. From here you’ll get event info including session and keynote schedules and maps to all the official events. As a registered attendee you can also use SXSW GO to mark your schedule on the app’s calendar, share it with others, and see what sessions your friends plan to sit in on. Convention center floorplans help you find session rooms, press centers and sponsored booths quickly. With SXSocial integration, you can also share photos and see others in a map view.
For a broader, unofficial take on SXSW, try Lanyrd. It’s designed for conferences to help you socialize with the right people, leveraging your Twitter contacts to follow friends’ activity and plans. There’s a built-in scheduling tool, a speaker directory, plus the ability to save events offline and navigate to an event. Lanyrd supports multiple Twitter accounts, tracks hashtags and lists popular events. For SXSW in particular, Lanyrd can help you find the unofficial parties around town, which can be good if you’re not into waiting an hour in lines stretching five blocks long.
If you’ve ever been to SXSW you know how hard it is to find someone. But once you do, you’ll run into them again at every turn. Yobongo will let you chat with nearby friends, and will also alert you when friends are in the vicinity. That way, you’ll never miss an opportunity to connect with the people you’re hoping to see at SXSW. Hold a private conversation, share photos and see a photo stream from your local buddies. Still new to the scene, Yobongo only works currently in San Francisco, New York, and of course, Austin.
Another social networking app, Highlight is hoping to make an impression at SXSW this year. View friends when they’re nearby, share photos and other media. When you meet another Highlight user, the app will tell you what you have in common. Get alerts when friends cross your path, and get a stream of incoming facts about them that may be of interest. Highlight taps into your Facebook network to provide its social enhancement features, so you’ll need to link it to your Facebook account. And as a heavy GPS tool, be sure to keep your iPhone charged.
Taking the check-in concept to another level, Foreca.st lets you mark the places you’ll be in the future. It’s designed to help you be more social offline, adding an opportunity to plan with others for an upcoming meet-up, instead of checking-in while you’re at a given location. To help facilitate real-world meet-ups, Foreca.st has a “Me Too” feature that groups people together so you can see who else plans to be there. Group chat helps everyone keep in touch, while Foursquare integration lets you check-in and earn points. You can also share your future plans on Facebook and Twitter. From the team behind Hurricane Party, Foreca.st could be another SXSW hit this year.
You may have noticed a growing trend around social discovery tools emerging at SXSW. Glancee is another app that helps you discover who’s around you. Competing with Highlight for the startup success story of the year, Glancee prioritizes people that are important to you, based on things like similar interests or common friends. Message people when they’re nearby using text or VoIP messaging, or add them to your favorites to keep in touch later. With a built-in perk to not drain your battery, Glancee runs in the background and sends you a notification when friends are nearby. Like Highlight, you’ll need to sign-in with your Facebook account.
Social networking to the max, uberlife connects you with friends for the purpose of going out for drinks, listening to live music or eating at a new restaurant. Ideal for SXSW, uberlife’s social discovery tool creates real-world hang outs with your Twitter and Facebook friends around their current or future locations. Shared plans can be broadcast on Twitter and Facebook, so you can invite others to join. The idea is to minimize the back and forth that takes place between individuals when you’re trying to link up. You can search for local hangouts, join them, search surrounding places and find interesting people.