Location Based Guides Disappoint

Today I was walking back from Golden Gate Cycles where I had dropped off my motorcycle to get a new windshield added. [Yes, I could probably do it myself, but who wants to chance having it fly off while cruising down a freeway?!] It was morning and I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. I was looking for a simple café to grab my traditional bagel breakfast with a coffee. At long last, a great reason to use the iPhone’s location aware applications!
Standing twenty feet in front of Alexandria Café, and next to a sidewalk billboard, I couldn’t get it to pull up on any of the map based applications. As I sat down to have my breakfast I decided to add it to Yelp and comment on the place. I first went to the Yelp application, but was surprised that it was nothing more than a one way data stream. They haven’t yet included the ability for people to comment on the go. Seems odd given that’s the point of Yelp.
After the café, I walked home. About midway I decided to test the experience again. This time I attempted the use case of someone wanting to find a good lunch restaurant near them. I figured this would work better. I first opened Where, which aggregates a few of these services. But, Where was difficult to use as I couldn’t zoom in on the map and it wasn’t finding me very quickly. I then tried Limbo, one that I think is organized well with it’s fast search of restaurants, bars and shopping places near you. Yet, when I clicked on Restaurants, of the thousands it said it found, all were “1/4 mile” away and none were places that I could visually read their storefront sign. Yelp? No, missed most of the places. Everything wanted to drag me through a long list and was slow to really understanding where I was.
I understand that many of these applications are trying to quickly position themselves with consumers to gain a “first mover” advantage. I think this is the wrong approach. If someone doesn’t like the application, they’re going to delete it and not be inclined to use it again. If you wait, till you really have a good offering, you’re still going to be able to gain share of users as the product will speak for itself and through viral marketing everyone will switch when yours is available.
Where, Loopt, Yelp, Whrrl, Limbo, etc. (iPhone applications) are all far from where they need to be in order to real excite people and provide the service we’ve been dreaming about. These applications need to do a better job of loading the location information (too many times it pulls up where I was yesterday) and need to tailor the content. This isn’t the web on my PC where I will forgive long lists of non-tailored businesses because I can more easily sort and filter them away. This is my mobile phone, I’m hungry and I’m on a sidewalk!

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