Hardly 'priceless': MasterCard's iPhone app

MasterCard's new iPhone app riffs off its amusing 'priceless' TV campaign. How well does that translate to an application?

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy | Team leadership | Audience engagement | Tips and FAQs | iPhone | Samsung | Android | iOS
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

Updated 7/22/09 at 11:45am PT: MasterCard's first iPhone app, ATM Hunter, debuted last April.

MasterCard's Priceless Picks
Deals like this were few and far between in my neighborhood. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

On Friday, MasterCard jumped again into the iPhone fray with its second corporate iPhone app. Expanding on the theme of its well-known "Priceless" campaign, the free application, Priceless Picks, pairs GPS and 3D maps to show you local deals, dining, and other points of interest in your immediate vicinity.

How, other than the branding, does it differ from Google Maps, Yelp, and the squads of similar user-rated map apps? Not by much. You soar around the map in quasi-street view or bird's-eye view, identifying locations as the color-coordinated bubble pops up. Red for dining, blue for shopping, orange for "Priceless" items, and so on.

MasterCard's Priceless Picks
Sadly, Vino Venue is actually closed. CNET/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt

MasterCard hopes that local vendors will post constantly updating deals in the few words contained within each bubble, and that users will post their local tips--best spot for a sunset, for example. The biggest problem is that they don't say much. Tap the bubble and you don't get a phone number, Web site, or star rating. You see options to e-mail the selection to a friend, flag as improper, or explore more details. The last is instructs you to call the merchant to verify a deal or pinch and zoom to work out the vendor's exact street location.

Priceless Picks isn't terrible. It looks pretty good and loads fairly quickly. It lets you filter categories. And it did point to an interesting source for wine sampling via vending machine--that has since closed. Spinning around the map can get dizzying--we'd like to see a compass and a list mode to complement the map mode, not to mention a hearty infusion of real information that will help bridge the gap between merely locating a place and actually visiting it. A comments system wouldn't hurt either, or a way for users to upload short video reviews that riff on the "Priceless" advertising format.

While completely innocuous, the best thing about MasterCard's new free Priceless iPhone app is that it does, literally, lack a price tag.