I love GPS apps! I love always being aware of what is around me at all times. Kinda makes me look cool and all knowing; a sort of person that friends ask for restaurant recommendations all the time! I have probably tried most apps in the App Store that provide local information, and its time I listed the best of the lot.
Hands down my favorite app for finding anything aroundme. Besides the top notch user experience and all the other great features seamlessly packed into this wonderful app, the key reason that this app remains my number 1 is that Localscope is the only App out there that lets you search for the same query using multiple data sources without retyping the query again and again. This feature is of the highest importance as I have not yet found one service that provides the best results for everything. I find better restaurants using Google, but for the best nightclubs and pubs, I use Foursquare. Twitter is the best place to look for public opinions about a place, and the most landmarks and buildings are marked at Wikimapia in my region. Localscope lets me search for one search phrase across all of these services, and I have to type the phrase only once. Moreover, Localscope provides the widest set of actions that can be performed on the search results, including dialing phone numbers directly, get directions using a choice of navigations apps like navigon or share the found place with friends over Facebook, etc. Localscope is one of my Homescreen apps since its launch, and definitely worth the money.
Where To? is probably the second most polished app in my list after Localscope. I love the circular dial in its first screen, but hate the fact that it only appears in the first screen. The most unique feature of Where To? is its huge database of preentered search terms. While I hate typing on my phone and tapping a search term in the list is much easier, I find the activity of searching through search terms to then search for real results a little crazy! The Where To? database lists a LOT of search terms including a lot of brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s etc. (They claim to have over 2,400 brands) However, it doesn’t list a lot of brands that are local to me. Fundamentally I don’t see the policy of preentering all the possible search terms into the app, as for the developers to cover all the brands of the globe, they would have to fill it up with all of the worlds yellow pages. Of course you could go ahead and delete the brands and search terms that are irrelevant to you. Besides this basic design annoyance, Where To? is still a great app.
A popular choice, used by many as its basic version is free and advertisement supported. I do not mind ads in some of my apps, but for a local search app that is usually used on the road, banners take up valuable mobile bandwidth as a result slowing down the entire experience of quickly finding the right place. Ads can be removed for an in app purchase of $2.99 but for that price, there are much better apps out there in the AppStore.
Foursquare is the social networking app for finding the best places around you and make fun. The extremely popular app – used by millions worldwide – recommends places based on someone’s location and other users’ feedback.
Layar – Augmented Reality (Free)
Layar is a pure augmented reality app that is full of features including downloadable ‘layers’ i.e. search engine sources that are both free and paid. Layar is an ambitious app and has received a lot of press coverage and popularity for their Android version, however it also has a bad reputation of crashing and slow performance on the iPhone. A certain version of Layar was also booted out of the App Store as it received a lot of complaints of crashing and being unstable. The app has since then been improved and re-approved for App Store. I love the fact that you can download and switch between various sources, but I quite dislike the cumbersome experience to switch between them. Localscope provides a much smoother method to do the same, and since Localscope also has an augmented reality view, I choose Localscope over Layar.
MotionX GPS ($1.99)
MotionX GPS is not just a local search tool. It is a complete mapping / navigation app that also provides geo searching. It is also the most popular app in the Navigation category as its maps work globally unlike other navigation tools. I am personally not a big fan of ‘all-in-one’ apps and prefer point purpose apps that perfectly do the one thing they are meant to do. MotionX GPS is no exception here, as most of the search apps listed here outperform MotionX GPS in the search and discovery field, and pure navigation apps like Navigon and TomTom provide much better maps and navigation features. If you think otherwise and prefer an all in one app for all your map and search needs, then check out MotionXGPS, it is the perfect upgrade to your default map app.
My Local (Free)
Similar to aroundme, free and ad supported. Infact its quite hard to point out feature differences between the two. Chose My Local over AroundMe if you prefer black toolbars and buttons over the navy blue ones offered by AroundMe…
Where To Go? started off as a cheap replica of the WhereTo? App. So cheap that they couldn’t even think of a new name and icon or probably wanted to confuse potential WhereTo? customers into buying their app. Since their launch though they have added a few features unique to the app, and at this time it is the only app which is universal and works natively on the iPad (which is the only reason i have put it on this list). I personally loath their UI and the cheap imitation of WhereTo’s sexy dial UI.