Yesterday, Apple rolled out iOS 4.3 beta to developers, and the first look at the latest iOS version yielded up some gems, including multi-touch gestures, hotspot functionality, a return of the orientation lock and new camera effects. Earlier today, MacRumors uncovered settings for a feature called "Find My Friends" in this recent beta. This string was associated with MobileMe and may be a social feature similar to Google Latitude or Facebook Places, two services that let you locate and communicate with nearby contacts.
This is not the first time Apple has toyed with the idea of using location to help find others around you. A patent filing for a concept application called iGroups surfaced last year. The patent describes a location-based service that would let members of a group locate one another using GPS coordinates. Group members could also use encrypted tokens to share information. The patent specifically mentioned trade shows and rock concerts, so this idea, if it ever materializes, may have limited usage.
It will be interesting to see what Apple may have in store for iOS in this growing area of location-based services. While many third-party applications use location information in novel ways, the core operating system and built-in iOS applications only scratch the surface of what is possible with direct access to always-on location information.