Essential App #9: Yelp Will Find Anything, Anywhere, Anytime

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My dad was a magician at sniffing out great places to eat. We’d drive by some hole-in-the-wall we’d never seen before, and he’d point and say, “that’s where we’ll  eat, it’s good.” Then I’d scramble to check out the hole-in-the-wall’s rating using the Yelp app on my iPhone, to see if he was right. The result was always the same: me shaking my head in disbelief as Yelp’s vast community of raters would invariably agree with him.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a magic nose. But that’s ok — we’ve got Yelp.

Two things make Yelp great: A ridiculously rich level of info, and an extremely wide user-base that’s been integrated into the app in a very smart and useful way. Want to find an Internet cafe open at 4 a.m. in Podunk, Michigan that serves decent coffee and also has outdoor seating? Yelp will tell you if such a place even exists (it doesn’t). The app’s filtering variables include distance from your location, the venue’s priciness and whether it’s open; not quite as selective a filter as on Yelp’s website, but not bad.

And the folks behind Yelp always seem to be itching to find ways to make it better — the last major update integrated a check-in feature similar to that of apps like Foursquare.

The Yelp app’s missteps are limited. It’s difficult to change locations in the app — if you’re looking for a venue in another state, you’ll have a heck of a time finding it. And while you can write a review using the app, it’ll be saved as a draft until you access Yelp the old-school way. You can, however, add a “quick tip” — a snippet of info that might be useful to other prospective patrons (like, “food’s great, but don’t go into the men’s bathroom.”)

The app also dabbles in augmented reality with its “monocle” feature that overlays info about locations (of the type you’re currently searching for) on what you’re looking at through the iPhone’s camera; cool, but like most applications of augmented reality so far, fairly useless.

Besides being available in the U.S., Yelp’s also available in Canada, the UK, France, Germany and Ireland (sorry, Tonga).

This post dedicated to my dad, who passed away last week. Love you, dad.