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Google+ Local app hits iPhone with voice search, Zagat ratings

Google Places has been rechristened Google+ Local and now offers both voice search and Zagat ratings with the latest update.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

The Google Places iOS app has a new name and new features.

Redubbed Google+ Local as of yesterday, the travel app now offers iOS users several handy, new options.

First up is voice search. You can speak the name or description of what you're seeking.

For example, saying the phrase "Mexican restaurants" displays a list of places serving Mexican cuisine in my local area. Uttering the words "Dunkin' Donuts" shows me a list of all Dunkin' Donut establishments nearby. And speaking the name of a local restaurant calls up its specific listing. Simply tap the microphone icon, and tell the app what you want.

As always, I could then narrow down the list by tapping buttons for distance, rating, price, and hours. Tapping on a particular business or store provides options for calling it, seeing it in on a map, getting directions, and reading reviews from other customers. And of course, you can contribute your own ratings and reviews on your favorite or not-so-favorite spots.

Zagat ratings are now included as well so you can see what the famous review service has to say. The Zagat ratings provide a description of the restaurant or other business along with grades on such aspects as the food, service, and decor.

Google's description of the revised app mentions an "improved UI for searching for places that aren't nearby." I couldn't tell what Google was referring to here. But I was easily able to search for stores and businesses in different locations, both by typing and by voice.

Sometimes the app had trouble understanding my voice command, so I had to repeat it. But otherwise, Google+ Local is a welcome and helpful upgrade to the old Google Places app.