News apps are starting to update content when users change location

Instapaper | News.me | Apple
A trendy new feature is starting to spread in iPhone news apps: Automatic downloading of the latest content based on a user’s location.

News.me’s Paperboy feature lets a user designate his home location, and updates the content automatically whenever he leaves home.

News.me pioneered the approach last month with a feature nicknamed “Paperboy,” which lets a user set her home location so the app can download the latest stories whenever she heads out. Now Instapaper has incorporated a similar feature that lets readers set up to 10 locations (home, work, gym, etc.) that should trigger the app to download any newly saved articles.

Why is that useful? It ensures a user has the latest content on her device before she gets on a subway, airplane or other places with no connectivity. It also gets around Apple’s once-a-day limit on how often apps can download new content “in the background” on a device. With this approach, background downloading can happen multiple times as a user travels.

Location-based downloading takes advantage of “geofencing” technology built into iOS since version 4.0. With a user’s permission, an iPhone or iPad app can define a virtual fence around certain geographic regions (a central point plus a given radius). iOS automatically monitors the device’s location, and whenever one of the boundaries is crossed, it triggers a desired action, such as downloading content or reminding a user to pick up his dry cleaning nearby.

Related: Developer documentation on using iOS geofencing (Apple) | How location-based social network Foursquare is about to reinvent itself (TechCrunch) || Earlier: iPhone 4 could accelerate “geofencing” (Poynter) | News orgs should build apps that solve problems, not just republish content (Poynter)

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