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Mobile Users Warming Up to the Check-in

“Checking in” is something most of us quit doing about the time we left high school and our parents no longer needed to know our whereabouts 24/7.

But Checking In to location-based services on a mobile phone is something that increasingly is becoming part of our lives and – while it’s still not a mainstream activity – smartphone users in particular are gravitating to the apps typically linked to check-ins.

According to comScore, 7.1% of all mobile users and 17.6% of smartphone users accessed check-in services in March 2011. Those kinds of figures probably will continue to rise in the wake of Google’s announcement in April that it has added a Latitude feature, which lets iPhone and Android users to reap rewards for loyalty to shops or restaurants.

Interestingly, females under 35 and full-time students are the most likely to check in – surprising, in that research tends to show women are more sensitive than men about disclosing personal information … especially their location. But men and women alike have expressed concern about privacy in relation to location-based apps.

Google began allowing smartphone users check into spots on the go in February, jumping into the trendy location-based services fray with Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla. The check-in feature was added to a Latitude service that lets people with GPS-enabled Android smartphones share their whereabouts with selected friends.

Facebook last year released Places and Deals applications to enable smartphone users to share their whereabouts with friends and get rewarded with notifications about deals at nearby shops or restaurants.

Facebook Places marked the firm’s first step into location-based services that have been catching on with the popularity of smartphones.

Smartphone users studied by comScore rated higher for participation in every other mobile activity, from overall browser and application usage to ad recall and mobile shopping activities. For example, check-in service users are 86% likelier to access mobile travel services.

Users of check-in services still skew young, although experts anticipate demographics will shift gradually to older users as developers and their marketing partners educate users about things like privacy, convenience and rewards programs.

“Checking in lets you share the places that you visit and add context to your Latitude location for friends and family,” Google Maps software engineer Douglas Graham said in a blog post. “At the same time, you can keep a history of where you’ve been while gaining status at the places you visit the most.”

Google partners included American Eagle Outfitters, RadioShack, Quiznos and Arby’s.

People can check-in places using location-sensing capabilities in smartphones, with deals improving as they advance from “Regular” visitors to “VIP” status and then “Guru” level.