How Foursquare’s relaunch saved it from certain death

Foursquare’s pivot may have saved the company, early adoption stats reveal.

Back in May, Foursquare announced a startling new direction: a complicated plan to split itself into two separate services, with a namesake app for discovery and a new check-in app called “Swarm.” The news, of course, sent power users into a panic.

But with strong adoption, Swarm rose up the charts on iOS and Android. Then, on Wednesday Foursquare relaunched its self-titled app with an exclusive focus on restaurant and business discovery. Five days later, users across iOS and Android seem to endorse the change, according to data from app tracking site App Annie.

Now, a look back at the data makes it perfectly clear how dire Foursquare’s situation was, and how successful Foursquare’s new namesake app has been in reversing a frightening trend.

This chart, depicting download rates on iOS from February 8, 2010 to today, says it all — from Foursquare’s rise to fame to its incredible free-fall, which kicked off around mid-September 2013.

foursquares decline ios app annie

Now, let’s take a closer look at the most interesting part of that chart … the chaos on the far right: the day before Foursquare’s relaunch, the company ranked #1,221 overall among iOS apps in the U.S. The following day, Foursquare jumped to #457.

As of today, App Annie reports that Foursquare ranks #394 among all iOS apps in the U.S., and #18 among all iOS travel apps in the U.S.

Foursquare iOS app store stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10.

Above: Foursquare iOS App Store stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (hourly).

Following the relaunch on Android, Foursquare ranks #461 in the U.S. out of all Android apps; prior to the reboot, Foursquare didn’t even rank among the top 600. Note the category switch [above and below] from “social” to “travel.”

Foursquare Google Play stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (daily).

Above: Foursquare Google Play stats in the U.S. from July 28 to Aug 10 (daily).

And now, Swarm: The app launched and rose to #62 overall in the U.S. on iOS in May. It quickly dropped off the charts, and then peaked late July to an incredibly high #11 among all top iOS apps in the U.S. The app did not reach similar heights following Foursquare’s relaunch, but still ranks far higher than Foursquare at #210 overall in the U.S. on iOS, and #24 among top social networking apps in the U.S.

swarm ios app annie stats may 15 to aug 9

On Android, Swarm’s proven far less predictable, but continues to perform quite well when compared to Foursquare’s self-titled app.

swarm Android app annie stats may 15 to aug 10

The app store download stats above paint a rather clear picture. For nearly a year, Foursquare has consistently plummeted in the app store. The relaunch stopped this trend cold.

It’s noteworthy, however, that app store download rates are only one among many metrics for understanding the popularity of an app. Daily active user stats, for example, would offer a clearer look at Foursquare’s relevancy. Reached by VentureBeat for comment, Foursquare refused to provide official daily active user stats.

The company did offer us one key nugget of information: “on our first day,” said a Foursquare spokesperson, “we had five times as many tips as our best day ever.” Clearly the reboot is sticky. At least in the short-term.

App ratings, another volatile yet important metric, also somewhat reinforce the numbers above. Prior to its relaunch, Foursquare users were furious with the change. Among 1,107 votes, the previous version of the app was rated 1.5 stars in the App Store. Following the relaunch, the latest version of the app now carries a 2-star rating following over 1,000 votes. That’s an improvement, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Foursquare's user rating in the App Store prior to the reboot.

Above: Foursquare’s user rating in the App Store prior to the reboot.

The long game: annihilate Yelp?

Although Foursquare appears better off following the relaunch, the company has a long way to go if it truly wants to unseat Yelp on mobile. Since launching on iOS years ago, Yelp has steadily grown and now ranks #35 among all apps in the U.S., #2 among travel apps in the U.S. On Android, Yelp ranks similarly strong. As a reminder, on iOS, Foursquare ranks #394 among all apps in the U.S., and #18 among all iOS travel apps in the U.S.

Foursquare is off to a strong start, but the company can’t celebrate yet. Most interestingly, Swarm may ultimately help carry Foursquare to success. Stats show the check-in isn’t dead after all, even if Foursquare had to move in a new direction to keep the lights on.