The next wave of food-finding apps

Aug 11, 2011
Tech

It sounds weird, but sometimes an entire category of apps you’d love to use can get lost in the shuffle. I spend so much time playing games to review at Appolicious and indulging other hobbies and passions via apps, that I had fallen off the wagon in perusing interesting food apps. I was reminded of […]

It sounds weird, but sometimes an entire category of apps you’d love to use can get lost in the shuffle. I spend so much time playing games to review at Appolicious and indulging other hobbies and passions via apps, that I had fallen off the wagon in perusing interesting food apps.

I was reminded of this when a recent story at TechCrunch caught my eye. The article essentially provides an update on a sort-of social networking food app, Foodspotting, which recently picked up its one-millionth download and added some social features to celebrate.

Now, it’s easy to miss even an app you’d potentially love simply because there are so many available. That strength in numbers often means losing sight of something worthwhile. But I really enjoy food, so not knowing a cool food app existed before it hit 1 million downloads was particularly surprising.

But it also got me thinking about food apps in general, and why I haven’t thought about them in a while. As far as tech goes, apps were my first real inclination to interact with food. I very rarely take photos of my meals, even though I do understand the appeal. I’m usually too into the actual food to stop and document it. But apps lend a different angle to eating.

Thinking locally

I’ve owned my two favorite food apps that I use regularly for as long as I can remember. Both are more geared towards finding food than discussing it. GrubHub is the app version of a website that gathers all the delivery restaurants in your area (as long as you live in one of the dozen or so cities it serves), and in many cases lets you place online orders for some of your favorite spots. It’s a great app, but I rarely find out about a new restaurant via GrubHub on purpose.

READ  Trending - Did Google Copy Twitter?

The restaurants on GrubHub are user-rated on a star system. There are also reviews, but there’s such a large gap between a professional critic’s review and someone writing, “My shrimp linguini was cold to the bones when it arrived.” I mean, good to know, but picking restaurants off the GrubHub app was mostly like throwing darts at a board and hoping you hit as close to the center as possible.

Urbanspoon (also for iPad) is similar in that it doesn’t offer much in the way of critique, but it does service a few more locations than GrubHub. This app’s specialty is unpredictability. Urbanspoon allows you to offer as little or as much guidance as you want when choosing your meal in three categories: neighborhood, cuisine and price. If you want, you can tell the app you want an expensive meal in any neighborhood in your city and it doesn’t matter what sort of food. And voila, you’ll get a restaurant to eat at.

How Foodspotting changes the game

And these are the only food apps I’ve used extensively because really, how many variations on the same theme do I really need? But I feel like Foodspotting could be an app that bridges the gap between the apps I use now and the people who were taking photos of their food in smartphone infancy.

Here is an app that lets you follow people who are taking pictures of their food, but then it also lets you follow up with location searches and food guides that allow you your own shot at restaurant discovery. It acknowledges and appreciates the social aspects of eating, but it doesn’t do so at the expense of just throwing food pictures into an app and calling it new or interesting. The food pictures simply lead you right to the restaurants where you can actually experience these same foods.

READ  Trending - Did Google Copy Twitter?

These are the kinds of apps, with combined purposes, that have reinvigorated the genre of food apps for me. Now I want nothing more than to browse food photos and see if I can’t take a few of my own favorite haunts, so that other people might have the same feeling of discovery I get when I find a new, delicious place to eat. And that’s what social networking is all about.

Download the free Appolicious iPhone app

Search for more

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.

 

    Home Apps Games