Find a restaurant, find it fast.
Restaurant review aggregators are all good and well, but if you're already out of the house and don't want to spend time looking for a restaurant then Urbanspoon for the iPhone is the way to go. With an extensive database of restaurants and reviews, as well as some other novel features, Urbanspoon is a great way to find a nearby restaurant or to randomly expand your culinary experiences.
- Uses accelerometer and GPS, extensive list of restaurants
- Not enough countries supported, some elements poorly designed
Urbanspoon is an excellent application for finding a bite to eat at short notice, with some iPhone-specific novelties that contribute to its usefulness. It could use some improvement, but overall it’s a great addition to any night out.
Finding a restaurant through Urbanspoon can be done using one of two methods: Shake or Near Me. Shake, the primary interface of Urbanspoon, is simple and easy to use. Restaurants are categorised into three areas: location or suburb, cuisine and expense. Users can lock each of these categories to a specific choice, or leave them open to change. Shaking the phone (using the iPhone's integrated accelerometer) or simply pressing the Shake button brings up a suggestion based either on the user's criteria or, if none are selected, a completely random suggestion. The process is fast and simple, and it quickly gives the user the information they need to know.
Near Me uses the iPhone 3G's integrated GPS receiver to determine the user's current location and recommends restaurants within a 1-2 kilometre radius; it's a particularly useful function for a night out on the town. The interface isn't as polished or attractive as the Shake menu and could do with a redesign, but it is functional nevertheless.
Apart from its ability to quickly find new restaurants, Urbanspoon also offers reviews from users and restaurant critics. In Sydney, Urbanspoon offers reviews from the Sydney Morning Herald, Your Restaurants and City Search, as well as reviews submitted to Urbanspoon's Web site by its community of users. An aggregated rating is also provided for each restaurant, though this is based on user votes rather than critics' reviews.
Urbanspoon's browse and search functions seem little more than tacked-on elements of the service's Web site. While search results are categorised in a similar fashion to the Shake mode, individual restaurant pages are not optimised for the iPhone. These functions don't match the brilliant Shake and Near Me functions and seem less polished.
Urbanspoon offers an extensive list of restaurants for those cities it does support but, unless you're travelling to London, the US or Canada, don't expect the iPhone app to be your buddy overseas. With support limited to major cities in the US, Canada and England and only Melbourne and Sydney supported in Australia, Urbanspoon is still somewhat limited in scope.
Perhaps our biggest complaint about Urbanspoon is the inconsistency in layout and functionality. We have already mentioned the differing levels of polish and design between the Shake and Near Me functions, but the inconsistencies extend to individual restaurant pages. Opening a restaurant found through the Shake function shows a tailored snippet of vital information laid out in a fashion that suits the iPhone. Doing the same from any other function in the application simply brings up a mobile-enhanced version of Urbanspoon's Web site instead. Clicking on a restaurant address in Shake mode automatically opens the Maps app; doing this in any other application simply brings up a non-adjustable map of the location within the same window.
We like Urbanspoon and it will no doubt become an indispensable tool for culinary experts and high-brow socialites, but a little more thought and some better design could definitely improve this application.
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