Friends Around Me iPhone/iPad app lets you interact with friends or strangers, just like they were really there

Friends Around Me iPhone AppFriends Around Me is a mobile app for iPhone and iPad that searches around you for nearby friends — or anyone else willing to say hello — and enables you to view their profile, look at and rate their photos, chat with them, or send them virtual gifts.

The service joins together your Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook networks, allowing you to check in to venues and update your Twitter/Facebook status from one place. Best of all, the service doesn’t require yet another social network registration: you can sign in using Facebook Connect or the Twitter API.

One cool thing about the service (that will probably freak out the privacy paranoid) is that there are no restrictions on whose profile you can view, or who you can chat to. Plus, you get to see and respond to everyone who has viewed your profile, making it a great tool to meet new people. Of course, there are options to hide yourself from strangers, but where’s the fun in that?

Once you have met people, you can add them to a “Friends” list (soon the list will be able to be imported from Twitter or Facebook), where you can see each other’s statuses (doing so requires permission from the user) or a “Favorites” list, where you don’t get to see their statuses, but acts as a sort of person bookmark (permission isn’t required to add someone to your favorites list, but the person can block you if you get all creepy).

The group chat feature provides an easy way to broadcast messages out to friends, and have all the replies in one place for everyone to see. This can make things like arguing over deciding what movie to see later easier, as everyone involved gets to see everyone else’s insults replies.

But no location-based service would be complete without a scoring system. In Friends Around Me you earn points for activities such as using the app daily, sharing status updates out to other social networks, or receiving mad props on your photos. You can then cash in these points (they call them FAMES) for virtual gifts, so you can send that cute girl you see on the bus a virtual rose or whatever. Like that’s not creepy or anything.

For a quick run down of some of the features, I’ve included some videos below. We should also note they paid for a booth at TC Disrupt. I wasn’t at the event, however, and I took a gander at this from a neutral standpoint.

Friends Around Me – Chat Feature from Carmen Leander on Vimeo.

Friends Around Me – Dashboard Feature from Carmen Leander on Vimeo.

Friends Around Me is available now from the App Store. It has already been downloaded 150,000 times, so chances are you can find at least one person who wants to talk to you.