Google Places with Hotpot comes to iDevice

Jan 17, 2011
Tech

Google’s Hotpot rolled out to the web and Android in November, but now there’s an official app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad — Google Places — to capitalize on the food-finding technology. Restaurants and corresponding reviews are the centerpiece of Google Places, but the app also offers dedicated search categories for coffeehouses, bars, ATMs […]

Google’s Hotpot rolled out to the web and Android in November, but now there’s an official app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad — Google Places — to capitalize on the food-finding technology. Restaurants and corresponding reviews are the centerpiece of Google Places, but the app also offers dedicated search categories for coffeehouses, bars, ATMs and other attractions, as well as the option to add your own search categories.

Much like Netflix’s recommendations, Hotpot and Places use your existing ratings as the basis for recommendations — the more you rate, the more likely Places is to give you a search result you actually want to visit. The app also can pin down places based on your friends’ recos, but all of this has to be managed through Google’s Hotpot web interface, and can’t be done in app.

Google Places is free, so it’s got that going for it, but the app still needs major tweaks to hold a competitive spot against the likes of Yelp and other location apps. For one, the interface isn’t user-friendly. Yes, the app does make category searches easy, but it defaults to your current location. If you switch to map view, you can drag the pane to a new location and tap “redo search here” to see sites in that vicinity — but you can’t actually type in a new address, so I hope your panning skills are on point.

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Much of Google Places felt lazy to me. You can see an overall star rating and the beginnings of individual reviews (pulled from other sites such as Yelp and CitySearch), but to read full content, get directions, see more information, or view the location on a map takes you out of the app to Safari or Maps. There’s no reason this content can’t be provided in-line, which would make the app more of a keeper. You’ll also want to ensure that the information you get is correct — one restaurant was indicated as being at the end of my block, when, in reality, it’s more than two miles away.

Finally, to get the most out of Google Places, you’ll want to rate and review places you go. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is by signing into your Google account and publicly sharing your thoughts — not ideal for people who still try to maintain a semblance of privacy with their Google accounts.

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