Sherpa is a new location-based service from Geodelic that was set to launch with the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G on August 5. Luckily, however, the app got an early release to the Android Market and it's now available for download.
Users will find a well-polished app that allows them to quickly obtain information that is relevant to their location and tailor it to their liking. Simply open the application and Sherpa will begin displaying locations and information around you based on distance, relevance, and personal interest. Users can browse the results in a slick-looking carousel view, top-down Google map, or in a list format.
I was pleasantly surprised the first time I used the app by the number of locations it found around me. Nearly every business in my neighborhood that I could think of was listed. Sherpa also managed to display the actual logo for most companies as well. Clicking on any entry will take you to a more detailed information page for the listing. You can phone the business, get directions, give your personal rating, and read reviews. Geodelic has partnered with Yelp and Citysearch to provide ratings.
Eventually, Sherpa will offer three types of experiences for the user. The first, which is currently available, is the General Experience that lists everything around you and updates as you move.
Geodelic refers to the second experience as "Onsite." After you reach a location with published custom information, Sherpa will load that experience for you. Examples include a restaurant displaying its menu and current specials, a retailer publishing its weekly circular ad, or an amusement park providing the map to their rides. Other Android apps like Where and Aloqa are attempting similar features, but Sherpa has the advantage of being backed by T-Mobile.
Themed Experience is a collection of locations and information that is targeted toward a specific niche. For example, Greenopia, which is a themed version of Sherpa that is currently available on the iPhone, includes more than 1,000 green stores, restaurants, and services in the Los Angeles area.
It will be interesting to see how all of these new location-based apps compete on the Android platform. Many offer promising features, but they need an active community of users and publishers to be successful. As mentioned, Sherpa has the early edge by being recommended by T-Mobile and featured in the AppPack. Currently, I find Sherpa provides the best user experience, but we'll have to wait and see which app gains the support of larger stores looking to provide a mobile experience.