The Yelp app for iOS (iPhone) is designed to help you find the best local businesses in your immediate area – whether it's a restaurant, a bar or just a 24-hour garage. In addition to providing you with essential details such as opening hours, addresses and phone numbers, Yelp also serves up a host of user-submitted reviews, ratings, photos and other useful anecdotes.
Tapping into the GPS powers of your smart device, the Yelp app helps users to find exactly what they are looking for via a set of filters to help narrow your search by category, distance and ratings among others.
The Yelp app interface is decidedly straightforward to use. The dashboard displays a constant search bar at the top, with icons below giving access to the Home, Nearby, Search, Bookmarks and Check-Ins tabs. From the Home menu, the app also provides access to the user's own Yelp profile and recent searches, along with a feed of the latest uploaded pictures and reviews for businesses in their vicinity.
In the Nearby tab, you can filter the amount of local businesses to view by a whole host of categories, including nightlife locations, hot new businesses or financial services. The app also provides the option to find local businesses offering special discount and offers for those checking in via the Yelp app.
You can follow the check-ins of top Yelp users, and by syncing the app with your Facebook account it will automatically update the Check-Ins tabs with all your friends' most recently tagged places, giving the distance from your current location and the rating of that listing too. The Talk feature within the Home page also allows you to post a question to other Yelp users asking for information about specific venues or locations.
One of Yelp's key features is its augmented reality mode, Monocle. Like the Nokia City Lens, Monocle overlays ratings and other useful data for local businesses in real time just by pointing the camera of your mobile device down the street. It's a very useful feature when trying to find specific shop or eatery in an unknown place, however on occasion the feature does try and cram more information on the screen that it can comfortably accommodate. The Monocle feature generally runs quite smoothly, although it can sometimes be a little geographically inaccurate.
Yelp's biggest asset is the wealth of user-submitted information it holds about the businesses it displays. Even the most obscure bars and restaurants generally get a look in, with an impressive amount of detail for each business. From the listing page you can add a tip or photo, check in, bookmark it, get directions or even make a reservation.
Unfortunately though, the app only lets you draft a review rather than actually publish it. To publish a review, you have to go to the yelp.co.uk website where your draft will be waiting for you. This seems a bit laborious, and it would certainly be far more convenient to be able to post a review in-app, directly from your mobile device.
While users of the Android version of the Yelp app have noticed considerable lag using the service, we found the iPhone version to be smooth – even in low-signal areas. When you are out in an unknown city, it's useful to be able to have this zippy app in your pocket to find nearby high rated listings and find directions or reviews.
The Yelp app for iOS is well designed and incredibly useful. It provides a full range of search filters and the Monocle feature is a great addition to the treasure trove of user reviews and ratings. With a few minor improvements, such as being able to further refine the information given by the Monocle function, and the ability to post a review directly from the app, this recommendations app could be one of the must-haves for iOS.