Why build a local search app for iPhone when the Maps app already lets you find businesses and local attractions? Apple’s Maps app doesn’t use all the information that’s available about businesses, doesn’t show photos, reviews and other details. That’s one of the reasons why Google decided to build an iPhone app called Google Places.
“We realize the importance of finding places you’ll love while you’re out and about, no matter what mobile device you use. And Places with Hotpot not only helps you find places near where you are, it gives you the best places to go for you by personalizing your search results,” explains Google.
The application integrates with Google Hotpot and uses your ratings and your friends’ ratings to recommend other places. Google Places encourages users to rate businesses and to post reviews in order to get better search results and that’s an interesting proposition. What’s missing from the app is a list of business you’ve previously rated and the Hotpot feed that’s now available on Google Maps.
Geo services are one of the key Google assets and it’s very likely that Google will use them to create a stealth social network. Google Maps is probably the best mapping service and one of the most popular local search engines, so the social layer will have an important user base. Unlike Google Buzz, Hotpot doesn’t have privacy issues yet and it doesn’t feel like a different app because it’s properly integrated with Google Maps.
Google Places for iOS can be installed from the Apple App Store and it’s only available in English.
Google recently released Google Places with Hotpot in Google Maps for Android, and starting now, you can have that same great experience as an iPhone app. We realize the importance of finding places you’ll love while you’re out and about, no matter what mobile device you use. And Places with Hotpot not only helps you find places near where you are, it gives you the best places to go for you by personalizing your search results.
In case you aren’t familiar with Google Places, it lets you quickly search for places nearby and personalizes the results based on places you’ve rated. We get you started with a few popular search categories, but you can also tailor the list by adding your own favorite searches. This makes it fast and easy to find the best places for you with little fuss.
It can be pretty rewarding to discover a new place you love, but we also realize that there are some experiences you just can’t wait to share. So Places makes it super simple to rate a place with your iPhone while you’re there. Just fire up the app and hit “Rate now.” It will use your location to guess your current place and let you post a Hotpot review right from your phone. But it’s not just about getting to say what you think—the more you rate places, the more you’re sharing about your tastes and the more we can give you personally tailored recommendations.
If you want to make things even tastier, just visit google.com/hotpot from your desktop computer. Here you can add friends to the mix and quickly rate all the places you already know. Once you’ve added friends, you’ll find your results seasoned not just with reviews from around the web and recommendations based on your own personal taste, but also with your friends’ opinions too.
Get the Places app on your iPhone now by searching for Google Places in the App Store or going here.
This first version of Places is available for all iOS devices in English only. However, expect more features and improvements to roll out soon, including localization in many new languages. We’re hard at work to make Places with Hotpot more and more delicious.
Posted by Greg Blevins, Software Engineer, Google Hotpot team Permalink
Today the Local Business Center is becoming Google Places. Why? Millions of people use Google every day to find places in the real world, and we want to better connect Place Pages — the way that businesses are being found today — with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google.
We launched Place Pages last September for more than 50 million places around the world to help people make more informed decisions about where to go, from restaurants and hotels to dry cleaners and bike shops, as well as non-business places like museums, schools and parks. Place Pages connect people to information from the best sources across the web, displaying photos, reviews and essential facts, as well as real-time updates and offers from business owners.
Four million businesses have already claimed their Place Page on Google through the Local Business Center, which enables them to verify and supplement their business information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons, product offerings and more. It also lets them communicate with customers and get insights that help them make smart business decisions.
Google Places will continue to offer these same tools, but the new name will simplify the connection with Place Pages. This reflects our ongoing commitment to providing business owners with powerful yet easy-to-use tools.
We’re also introducing several new features:
- Service areas: If you travel to serve customers, you can now show which geographic areas you serve. And if you run a business without a storefront or office location, you can now make your address private.
- A new, simple way to advertise: For just $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps with Tags. As of today, we’re rolling out Tags to three new cities — Austin, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — in addition to ongoing availability in Houston and San Jose, CA. In the coming weeks we’ll also be introducing Tags in Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder and San Francisco.
- Business photo shoots: In addition to uploading their own photos, businesses in select cities can now request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business which we’ll use to supplement existing photos of businesses on Place Pages. We’ve been experimenting with this over the past few months, and now have created a site for businesses to learn more and express their interest in participating.
- Customized QR codes: From the dashboard page of Google Places, businesses in the U.S. can download a QR code that’s unique to their business, directly from their dashboard page. QR codes can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials, and customers can scan them with certain smartphones to be taken directly to the mobile version of the Place Page for that business.
- Favorite Places: We’re doing a second round of our Favorite Places program, and are mailing window decals to 50,000 businesses around the U.S. These decals include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to directly view the mobile Place Page for the business to learn more about their great offerings.
Over the past few months we’ve also added the ability for business owners to post real-time updates to their Place Page. You might want to promote a sale, a special event or anything else that you want customers to know right now, and this feature lets you communicate that directly to your customers. You can also provide extra incentive by adding coupons, including ones specially formatted for mobile phones.
To keep track of how your business listing is performing on Google, we offer a personalized dashboard within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found your business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit your business. With the dashboard, you can see how your use of any of these new features affects interest in your business and make more informed decisions about how to be found on Google and interact with your customers.
One out of five searches on Google are related to location, and we want to make sure that businesses are able to be found and put their best foot forward. We’re excited to announce Google Places today, as it’s just the beginning of what’s to come from our efforts to make Google more local. If you want to learn more about Google Places, we’d like to invite you to an upcoming overview webinar, or you can visit our newly updated Help Center. We’ll also be posting on the Lat Long blog throughout the week to give a deeper dive into many of our newest features. To get started now, go to google.com/places.
Posted by John Hanke, VP Google Maps, Earth and Local