Near field communication (NFC) is the newest technology to hit mobile devices and Foursquare is capitalizing on it.

Since our Foursquare case study, Foursquare has just been plugging away, keeping its stronghold on the mobile check-in market. Recently however, Foursquare has made some new, exciting updates for its mobile app, including NFC support and updates to its Explore feature.

Near field communication (NFC) is a relatively new technology that is only on a limited number of mobile devices. Phones with NFC chips exchange information over short distances. Right now, Android is the biggest mobile operating system that is NFC-enabled. As the intelligent company will always do, Android wants to make sure they market every aspect of their system and have called their NFC feature Android Beam.

The Android Beam specifically is the wave feature of NFC, meaning that as phones pass near each other (only when allowed by the users, of course). Phones and users will be able to share anything from videos to links to contacts.

The other feature of NFC is the tap, which allows users to physically touch their phones to a NFC point at say, a business, and information will exchange. Specifically for Foursquare, users will be able to tap their phones again an NFC point to check-in, without having to even open the app.

Even though this is an exciting new development for Foursquare, because NFC is so new the release didn’t get very much press. Right now, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich is the name of the latest iteration) is the only operating system that supports it, so basically the only phone that can really utilize this technology (because it has an NFC chip) is the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung.

However, Foursquare developers hinted that NFC would definitely be more widespread in the future. Given that Foursquare also pushed this update to its iOS app, it looks like an NFC chip will be in the iPhone’s future.

Foursquare may be the first to jump on this NFC bandwagon, but it’s not exclusive to Foursquare. Android has made its NFC API available to all Android developers. In the future, maybe Facebook check-ins will also be available by simply tapping your phone against a movie theater’s poster, for example.

The other Foursquare update that took center stage in this week’s announcements was the improved Explore section that the company pushed out to its users. The web version of Foursquare already had a lot of these improvements but the company finally released them for the mobile app.

Even having Foursquare on the web is a relatively new development. A month ago, Foursquare launched its web application for users. While Foursquare operates based on its bread-and-butter of users on the go (finding location suggestions), the advantage of having a desktop accessible version of the service is that it can provide users more screen real estate to see suggestions and maps and friend reviews and recommendations. Before users get going, now they can plan ahead at their workstations.

Previously, the Explore section had friend’s recommendations for local businesses, tips and comments, a local search engine (e.g. returning local locations for venues that provide your search term, like “coffee” or “bagels”), and finally a Specials sections that showed deals for users and even maybe extra discounts for Mayors (users that spend more time checked-in to a location more than any other Foursquare visitors).

In addition to all of the old functionality, the new features include filtering search results by places that you’ve never checked-in to before and getting recommendations for locations that might not be in your current neighborhood.

So far, Foursquare has remained king of the mobile location based social network. Of course, Facebook implemented its own check-in system, and recently, Google Plus has wanted to jump on the bandwagon as well. Check out our blog post about Google Plus’ bid to take on Foursquare.