Yelp is easily my favorite online city guide for exploring restaurants and other businesses in my area. It not only provides vital information like hours, addresses, and phone numbers, but it also offers a treasure trove of user-submitted reviews, ratings, photos, and much more.
Since Yelp taps into your mobile device's GPS powers, it can easily help you find businesses nearby. Alternatively, you can indicate a city of your choice to search elsewhere. You can conduct your search based on keyword, or browse through listings by category. There are also filters to further narrow your search by factors like distance and price, or to display only businesses that are currently open. Unfortunately, though, those are the only filters available as you search. With Yelp's incredible database of information, it would've been nice to be able to filter by neighborhood or specific amenities offered, the way you can on the Web.
As a whole, the app's user interface is decidedly straightforward, with a dashboard displaying a search bar at the top and a few icons below for additional functions like bookmarks, check-ins, and deals. There are also shortcuts to see your Yelp profile, Friends list, and Recent searches.
Also accessible from the dashboard is one of Yelp's neater features, the augmented-reality mode Monocle. To use it, just point your camera down a street full of businesses, and watch as it overlays ratings and other useful data on your screen. Monocle comes in real handy when you're wandering on bustling city streets, but it's important to note that it can sometimes be overwhelming, with the overlay showing more ratings than the screen can comfortably accommodate. Also, I noticed that Monocle can be glitchy, as it sometimes freezes and shows slightly inaccurate geographical readings. Still, it's fun feature that can be useful when you want to see what lies in the general direction that you're walking.
Hands-down, Yelp's biggest asset is its impressively large database of information. Not only is it able to pull up listings for even the most obscure-seeming restaurants and bars, but each each individual listing is also impressive in the number of details they contain. A recently added feature even lets you explore the menus of select restaurants, right from within the app. From a listing page, you can also place a call to a business, find directions, draft a review (but not publish it), check in, bookmark, add a photo, or add a quick tip.
My biggest issue with the Yelp app is its performance. When you're out and about, looking for a place to eat, it helps to have a zippy app that can quickly pull up listings, load reviews and photos, and find directions. Unfortunately, Yelp for Android is anything but zippy. While the newest version is certainly an improvement over previous ones, I still notice a lag, specifically when loading photos and pulling up maps.
Overall, the Yelp app is incredibly useful and well-designed. Some improvements I would like to see in the future include the ability to publish reviews, more filter options for search results, and overall faster performance. Even without these features, though, I would still confidently say that Yelp is a must-have app for every mobile user.