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Loopt introduces LooptStar, rehashes ideas from Foursquare

Loopt was the first location-based social app out of the gate for iPhone -- remember that absurd demo with the guy in the double-popped collars? -- but it was soon passed up by competitors like Foursquare. Now Loopt is playing catchup by introducing LooptStar, a "loyalty card" system that allows businesses to reward repeat customers. Anyone who's used Foursquare will notice that this LooptStar thing smells very familiar.

So, what's the difference between LooptStar and Foursquare's discounts? LooptStar gives companies greater ability to customize their campaigns and offer innovative-- did you just fall asleep? I almost did. At least Foursquare makes an effort to look like it's supposed to be fun for the users, and not just a marketing tool for brands.

Loopt seems to be pitching its service less as a local discovery engine for people and more as another social-media-whatever that companies just have to have. Check out the partner brands it's launching with: Burger King, The Gap, Universal Records ... these are not exactly the local mom-and-pop bakeries we fight to stay mayor of on Foursquare.

From a user perspective, LooptStar really does look like a Foursquare ripoff. Checkins? Yep. Badges? Check. Mayors? They're called "bosses," but check. Plus, Loopt's offering is only on the iPhone so far, which gives it several platforms of catching up to do before it can hope to fully copy -- I mean, compete with -- Foursquare.

Two good things about LooptStar, though: it uses Wi-Fi data to stifle cheaters, and it lets you sign in with Facebook Connect, so you don't have to sign up for a separate Loopt account.

Foursquare's plan to monetize a fun social game by appealing to business feels like an afterthought, while Loopt is going straight for the throat on this one. Will more businesses get on board with a product that's tailor-made for them? I think it's too early to say, but Loopt is definitely hoping so.

Tags: business, checkin, iphone, location-based, loopt, looptstar, marketing, popped collar, PoppedCollar