The evolution of food recommendation iPhone apps

Oct 27, 2011
Shine

I’m quite sure I’m only days away from Siri becoming sentient and filing a restraining order against me. It’s not that I need to use the app, but just that I find her rigid lady-computer voice soothing in a sea of digital nonsense. So when tasked with tapping a weather app or asking Siri if […]

I’m quite sure I’m only days away from Siri becoming sentient and filing a restraining order against me. It’s not that I need to use the app, but just that I find her rigid lady-computer voice soothing in a sea of digital nonsense. So when tasked with tapping a weather app or asking Siri if it’s cold, my choice is very easy.

But now I want more of my apps to recommend me things. They don’t necessarily have to be super chatty about it or snark on me. Just tell me what’s good so I can check it out.

Plenty of apps already do that, of course. Any numbers of restaurant apps like GrubHub (free) or lifestyle apps like Thrillist (free) have been doing it for a couple of years now.

But Alfred (free) takes its duties one step further. Alfred is an app that asks you what you already like and tells you, based on the information you offer, what else you might like. This is the sort of computer-provided help that I so deeply desire. Free will is for losers. Finally, I can lay out my plan simply to my new app pal: “I enjoy the Mexican place down the street. Now tell me where else the tacos are good, and do it fast.” And it’s done.

Alfred even tells you what other people have enjoyed eating at the restaurant it just suggested, which is fantastic. It does all this thanks to some complicated math that TechCrunch did a good job explaining months ago.

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But now the app has added a feature that helps you recommend food for two or more people. This sort of thing could prevent wars from breaking out! As long as you and your pal both have Alfred, you can see which restaurants the clever dining app would suggest if it’s clear you intend to dine together. This is so far past what other suggestion apps are up to it’s crazy.

Related: The next wave of food-finding apps

Take for instance an app like Chef Picks by StarChefs.com ($1.99). Sure, as cool as an app that gives you top-notch recommendations from the country’s finest chefs might be, you still don’t really know if that restaurant is really right for you. There’s no math involved at all, just the word of chefs with highly refined palettes.

Foodio54 (free) comes a little closer to the Alfred ideal in that it offers you recommendations by finding users who have rated restaurants similarly to you and then telling you what they liked. There’s plenty to appreciate about that idea, and group-thinking when it comes to restaurant selection isn’t a bad way to go. But it still doesn’t hold a candle to opening an app, letting it know you’re eating with your buddy Dan and having it spit out some mutually appealing potential dining destinations.

The big caveat with using Siri early on has been that “it’s just a beta” so you can’t really push it to the limits that it will one day (potentially) achieve. But in a way, that’s true for any app you’re using today.

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Back when I first picked up an iPhone, an app that randomly recommended food based solely upon price point and cuisine seemed like the smartest thing in the world. A few years later I’m using an app that’s noting exactly the kind of food I already like to eat and expanding my horizons with very little effort on my part. That’s so huge.

Now if I could just find someone to do my clothes shopping and cooking, I’d really be going places.

Related iPhone App List: Top 5 Most Listed Foodie Apps

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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