Google Places: Google’s Own Local Recommendation App

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Move over, Yelp and Urbanspoon–Google’s getting in on the local recommendation app action.

The company has come a long way from being just a search engine. And with this week’s release of its latest iOS app, Google Places, Google is moving ever closer to social network territory.

The free app, which is available now in the iTunes store, works in conjunction with HotPot, a Yelp-like service which allows users to rate and review local businesses and share their evaluations with friends. The Places app itself will show you the closest restaurants, bars, ATMs, coffee shops, gas stations and other attractions, and you can also search for specific places.

Since the app is powered by HotPot, once you select a place, HotPot shows you its latest ratings and reviews, along with all the place’s vital contact information. As a recommendation engine, the idea is that the more places you review and rate, the smarter HotPot gets and the better it is able to make recommendations for places to visit on the go.

But the inherent problem with this idea is that, as a newbie, the Places app doesn’t boast many HotPot reviews, and this decreases the app’s overall usefulness (for the time being, anyway). Additionally, clicking the “more info” button once you’ve selected a place opens your browser and exits the app completely, forcing you to re-open the app if you want to search for something else afterwards.

It’s clear that Places combines the best features from a variety of different apps like Foursquare, Urbanspoon, Yelp, Citysearch and Gowalla. But that being said, it still has to work out the kinks before it can work its way to the forefront.

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