Great local search apps for iOS

I found an interesting local search app that got me thinking about apps that tailor results to what's around you. This collection for iOS is perfect for when you're in an unknown area or just want to try something new.

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I was going through the app listings the other day and came across LocalScope, a unique local search tool that helps you find things near your current location. Obviously, many people already use Google Maps (no current version for iOS) for this purpose, and the Yelp-powered Apple Maps gets better every day, but after looking at LocalScope (reviewed below), I went on a search for other apps that tailor their results just for what is right around your area.

This week's collection of apps is all about searching for services around your location. The first gives you tons of listings and a surprising bonus feature for finding your destination. The second offers a slick radial interface and tons of categories to pick from. The third is LocalScope, and uses social data to find places, videos, and images from people around your location.

Editors' note: I was unable to find Android versions of the apps in this collection.

AirYell
When you go to a listing you get all the info and you can hit that green car icon for turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

AirYell (free) is the only free app in this collection, and while it's not as pretty as the following two apps, it does give solid search results for your area.

AirYell gets its name from being like a personal Yellow Pages in your pocket. The home screen lets you add a search term (or you can speak the term), and the app provides you with a list of results in your area. You have the option to switch between the list view or the map view.

Across the bottom of the interface, you have a few more ways to view results. Touching Popular gives you a set of icons you can touch for listings of common searches such as Pizza, Taxi, Dentists, or Gas Stations. You'll get the same results from typing out the more common search terms, but it's a convenient way to get to results quickly. Touching Movies brings up the showtimes and reviews for movies at theaters closest to your location. You also have a Favorites button to keep track of your favorite spots so you can call them the next time you need a particular service. A More button gives you several more categories than the popular list, or you can view a history of your searches.

When you view a search listing, you get all the pertinent info such as the address, phone number, a menu (if it's a restaurant), and a small map to view the location. But an extra added bonus is that AirYell includes its own turn-by-turn navigation features with voice from within the app. While I haven't tested this particular feature to a destination, I think it's a great addition to a third-party local search app.

AirYell is not the prettiest app of the collection, but it does the job all the same, and the turn-by-turn navigation is a bonus that's hard to pass up. If you don't want to spend the money on the other apps, AirYell is a good choice.

Where To?
This app not only has a good-looking interface, but the lists of categories are enormous for finding just about anything. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Where To? ($2.99) is a local search app that has a smooth radial interface for choosing common search items, then displays them in a list, on a map, or via augmented reality (for an additional 99 cents).

With Where To? you're not just getting local restaurants and hot spots, you also have much more practical searches for when you're in an unknown area. Categories include Services for when you're looking for a bank, an ATM, or gas station, or more-complex professional services like accountants, glass repair shops, or even tax preparation. The list of services alone is enormous and alphabetized so you can find just about anything quickly. The same is true for each category, whether it's Restaurants, Emergency Services, Travel and Transportation, or Education. Each type of search gives you an exhaustive list to find just about anything you might need at that moment.

The augmented reality features in Where To? are precise and incredibly useful, but I don't like that you have to spend more money to get them. Fortunately, you can use a free trial to see what the features are like. When you search for something, such as sandwiches, you can switch from list or map mode into augmented reality mode. With this option on, you can turn your phone in different directions to see all the places in your area that serve sandwiches. If there are several in the same direction, you can touch a result to see all the results fan out so you can easily choose the exact one you want. I really like the augmented reality option, but spending an additional 99 cents seems a bit much for an app that costs $2.99 already.

Still, Where To? is a great-looking app with tons of results for nearly any category of service you can think of. If you want to see just about everything around you, this is the app to get.

LocalScope
When you hit the Discover button, you can see more than just listings of services. You can also view photos from Instagram, Flickr, and Panaromio shot near your location. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

LocalScope ($1.99) is little different from the rest in this collection; it's a social data-powered GPS app that culls info from several popular social networks to bring you information about what is near your current location. The other apps use your GPS to show you shops and restaurants in your area, but with LocalScope you get more than just listings, with photos, tweets, history, and more.

The clean, intuitive interface consists of an opening screen that lets you tap one of two buttons: either Search or Discover. Using the Search field you can enter terms like pizza or shoes, for example, or you can pick from a huge list of common searches. When you touch a category, such as restaurants, you'll first get all reviews and references to restaurants on Google+. The results are organized with restaurants closest to you at the top, and gradually move farther away as you go down the list. On the right side of the screen, you actually get an arrow pointing in the direction of the result (that moves when you move), and the distance you are from the location.

What makes LocalScope so unique is the enormous number of social networks and reference sites you can browse through at the bottom. Swipe to the next icon, and you get results from popular check-in site Foursquare. Another swipe shows the reminders from Apple's Reminders app in the same location. You can also look at Facebook references, Wikipedia entries, CitySearch, Google Maps, Twitter, and more for references from each social site for your location. What's especially interesting are the photo sites like Picasa and Flickr, which show you photos for the locations -- a great way to view dishes from a restaurant, for example. Even YouTube has a spot on the list, showing you videos that were taken near your location.

When you hit the Discover button from the home screen you get a slightly different list of social sites to choose from including Instagram for nearby Instagram shots, and Panoramio for crowdsourced photos of the world. So you're not just getting the restaurants and shops; you're also getting images that people found interesting in your immediate area.

LocalScope is both useful for finding things, and interesting for the sights you can discover. If you want a unique way to find out about what's around you, this app is a great choice.

 

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