28 Mar 2013
26 Location Apps for iPhone Reviewed - Finding Your Way to the Pub
I fancy a pint (not a rare occurrence) but I just don't know where to go. Perhaps I've just moved to the area or I'm just looking to go somewhere new.
10 or 20 years ago, my best bet would be to accost local passers-by and ask for recommendations and directions.
Well, that's no longer the case!
Thanks to my handy iPhone (I could have an Android device but for the purposes of this I don't) I can now download a smorgasbord of apps that will tell me everything from where the local is to what beer they sell to whether or not they're showing the England game.
I'm using pubs as an example but you can use geo-location apps to find pretty much anything. You could be designing the next big one after coming on our iOS App Development Training.
Geo-location apps are this decade's answer to tour guides and indecision and come in variety of shapes, styles and sensibilities.
I'm going to try as many as possible to work out which one is best for finding my way to a decent boozer, for telling everyone that I'm at a decent boozer (with an obligatory sepia-toned snap of my beverage as an accompaniment) and for various other decent boozer-related information and activity.
I'd like to point out that there are plenty of other things you could be doing with some of these apps aside from abusing your liver; like eating or dancing or something else constructive, it's just that I chose an activity close to my heart.
So for each app I'm going to rate it out of 5 for Usability (how easy it is to use), Choice (how many options it provides), Information (like opening times, WiFi connection etc) and Review System (how good the system for leaving/reading a review is, if there is one at all).
Then I'll give each it's total rating and I'm using a traffic light system to make it easier for you to judge whether or not you want the app:
- 0-9 is Red and means "don't bother"
- 10-15 is Amber and means "worth a look"
- 16+ is Green and means "download it now!"
I'll also say a bit about each one and split them into groups depending on how they can be used/features etc. Oh and obviously I'm only looking at free ones - can't be spending precious beer money on apps now can I?
Right, let's start our digital pub crawl then!
Location Finding Apps
These are the general day-to-day location finders that can be used for anything from hairdressers to vets. I'll be using them for drinking.
The go-to geo-location app, despite no longer being default on iPhones post-iOS6, it remains one of the most comprehensive catalogues of places available on a mobile device.
The app itself is intuitive and useful but could perhaps do with better social integration with G+ or the like.
Should always be the first port of call when calling for a port (or a pint, as is more likely).
I've merged these two despite them being distinct apps because the reviews system on Apple Maps is powered by Yelp.
Aside from the bad rep that Apple Maps got on release, this is at best a fall-back app if for some reason you don't have access/have a moral objection to Google.
Bear in mind that in within maybe a 400m radius from me, there are approximately ten or so pubs; this app lists about 3. So, yeah.
Unsurprisingly quite good coming from a company that made its money listing places in print form. It has most, if not all of my local pubs listed with contact details, info and reviews.
Obviously has no social element, but if you're the sort who prefers to keep the slurring in the pub rather than all over Facebook, this could be the app for you.
Another decent app from a 90s phonebook behemoth, it's pretty hard to pick between this and Yell.
In the end Yell does have a slight edge because it has detailed information about various aspects of each establishment while this offering from Thompson only gives a phone number and the option to link to a website (which is used by precisely none of the pubs in my area).
Find Around Me
Not awful but far from good, this is certainly not an English-originating app because you can only search for bars not pubs (though the distinction is purely semantic in this case).
Provides your usual array of directions/map features but with the interesting option to set reminders. I think if you need to set a reminder to go to the pub, you probably ought not be going to the pub.
Social Location Apps
These badboys provide many of the features that come with your bog-standard geo-location apps like those above, but with the added social element (i.e. the ability to tell everyone you know that you're having a skinful).
Can't quite decide whether that's an amazing technological development or one of the worst things ever to happen to civilisation.
As part of its plan to become the internet, Zuck's blue beast has incorporated a geo-location element called 'nearby' that runs in parallel to the checking in function.
Actually a very good app that comes with all of the functionality of Google Maps or Yell but with the option to see where your friends have been and what they think of places.
In a world becoming more and more hinged on word-of-mouth reviews, this app fits in pretty nicely.
The app that made geo-location sexy, Foursquare lets you check in and win various badges and honours. Basically it's like most other apps of this ilk but lets you become 'mayor' of place if you visit it enough.
Not sure you can really put 'Mayor of The Red Lion' on your C.V though.
Augmented Reality Apps
This is a whole new area of geo-location that is just starting to get exciting. Augmented reality(the merging of the real and the virtual) is almost certainly where the future of this type of technology lies.
With Google Glass on its way, the potential is huge.
Technically not really intended for geo-location, Layar let's you scout the area with your camera and receive integrated 'bubbles' that pop up to show you where to go.
Unfortunately as yet that's kind of it. Information about places and listings generally are limited, but it's only a matter of time before this app or one similar becomes the must-have on any homescreen.
What Layar would be like if it just concentrated on pubs - not only is it one of the more comprehensive pub finding apps available, it has the amazing feature 'On the Horizon' which actively scouts for pubs in the local area and shows them as layers on top of the image being recorded by your camera.
The only problem is that the current iteration is a bit clunky, and that amazing feature that distinguishes it from other apps gets a bit messed up, quite a lot of the time. Certainly a valiant effort though.
There was a time, before Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black and any other tween symbol that people repeatedly point to as evidence the world is just not as good as it use to be, when carrying a phone and trying to use it to find a pub would have you locked up in an asylum.
In those days of yore, to find a pub you may well have turned to a pub guide (makes sense). Well those pub guides still exist and are doing their utmost to stay relevant in a world that looks at them with a mix of confusion and nostalgia.
AA guides to anything have always been considered brilliant sources of location-based knowledge. It's a shame they decided not to continue in that vein with their app.
Clunky, limited listings and no review element make this barely worth a look. The only saving grace is that it has a useful little logo system to tell you all about the facilities at each establishment.
Shame there's only 1(!) pub listed in my local area and only 3 listed in the whole city.
Now anyone who's been to Brighton will tell you there's a few more than 3 pubs. In fact, anyone who hasn't been to Brighton could probably tell you there's more than 3 pubs.
Apparently this is the Official Pub Guide. Quite who endowed them with that authority is unclear.
To put it bluntly, this is useless. Not only does it not pick up your location, it asks you to put in your city and then still asks for your county before you can proceed.
It might sound minor, but that just winds me up. Can't it work that out itself? Has it never heard of Google?
Decent selection of listings but misses out on some significant haunts and basically tells you an address and not much else.
Touch interface is also appalling. Not worth the money - and it's free.
Better than the previous two guides but still kind of rubbish. The listings are pretty limited (only shows about 10 pubs for the whole of Brighton) but does have the potentially useful feature of being able to search by brewery (if you're into that sort of thing).
Probably the only reason to use it.
Find a Pub Apps
There are a whole host of apps dedicated to purely finding your perfect place to imbibe sweet nectar.
Many have geo-location functions and there are similar equivalents for other things like restaurants, cinemas and lacrosse pitches (probably).
Here are some of the best and worst (and quite a few that are just alright).
A sort of hybrid finder/social app thingy that kind of fails at both. It manages to only pick up a couple of pubs and seems intent on showing me the ones my 'friends' are at. Which is fine if you want that but I also want to know about the pubs where I can sit in solitude contemplating my... solitude.
It doesn't cater for loners and that's just not good enough.
Does have a wide variety of search options like trending and nearby beers rather than just pubs but what good is that if it only shows me pubs where there are people having fun?
Not a bad little app this one - has most of the pubs in the area and scores reasonably in all other aspects too.
It's a shame that the ratings aren't used much because that would probably push it into 'worth having' territory. As it stands it's in 'worth a look' territory. The distinction is subtle but definitely real okay?
More like Find my cr... no wait, that does actually exist as an app, which is depressing.
Has three pubs within half a mile listed (one of which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist) and then the next closest is 43 miles away. Yes, 43 miles, you read that right.
Great bit of info about what beers each place sells but what's the point in having that if it has barely any of the local venues?
When you first search for pubs in this app it seems like it's got a comprehensive list. Then I narrowed the search to within about a quarter of a mile and it returned just 2 pubs.
If I were to describe this app in one word? Meh.
Starts with the bold claim that this is the only app updated daily by licencees, which is great except that when that translates to 2 licencees within a mile, it kind of means nothing.
Would be amazing if more signed up and if there was some sort of review system.
'Wait' I hear you say 'I don't want to eat, I want to drink' you say 'eating is cheating' you just about manage to say while dribbling.
Well don't be put off by the name, this app actually has a dedicated pub section. The listings are quite thorough and the reviews not bad but it lets itself down with how it feels and the information it imparts about each place.
Worth a look if you're really stuck.
These are apps for those looking for more than just your standard pint-and-a-packet-of-plainaffair. Whether you're looking for that specific ale or a specific type of pub, these apps might be for you.
What if in your booze-starved state you've forgotten that old Rex is by your side?
Well Doggity is the app for you - it lets you find pubs in the area that allow dogs and even specifies whether that means they'll tolerate a handbag-sized chihuahua or welcome a Great Dane (though why you'll have Peter Schmeichel on a lead is beyond me. Eh? Eh? nudge, nudge).
Really decent-app and actually very useful for dog-lovers (equally useful for dog-haters, to know where to steer clear of).
Trying to think of a pub that'll have the footie (or any other sport) on but just keep drawing a blank? Match Pint will sort that.
It tells you about all the pubs in the area showing the game (except it doesn't because it only seems to find about 5 per match).
Great idea, decent execution except from the limited listings. Potentially a must-have for sports fans, with a bit of tweaking.
Football not so much your thing? Rather see a goat(?) than a goal? Maybe you need the Old English Inns app.
It lets you find any pub in the area it deems Old and Inn-y. Unfortunately in my area (a bustling metropolis) that means very few places make the cut.
If you like your fires open, beer local and have a penchant for exposed wooden beams, this app could be right up your street.
Something very different to the normal app, Dice Life lets you 'roll' a digital dice to decide where to go. Its listings and information it provides are actually quite good.
I wouldn't rely on this as the sole app you use to find places but it's quite a fun way to make a decision.
Now if you drink proper beer (I don't but don't hold that against me) then you'll have already heard of the Cask Marque. For those who don't, it's an award given to beers that are, well, good.
The options provided on their app are fantastic, from your usual 'find a beer or pub' features to finding brewers or festivals. You can even search by pubs who are serving their 'beer of the week'.
Expansive, useful and innovative. Now just need one for us shandy drinkers.
Some pub chains have become part of the fabric of our society. It's no surprise then that beacons of quality and taste like Wetherspoon and Yates's have their own apps, with location-finding services built in.
But are they any good?
In short, no - not this one at least. Works well but obviously limits you to just Wetherspoon pubs. Even in a big city there might only be one or two so it's a bit of a pointless one really.
No reviews either, making this app just a bit of easy promotion for 'spoons and not much else.
Equally rubbish. Nice lot of info about each Yates's pub but does anyone really care about that? It's a Yates's at the end of the day. Don't bother wasting storage space on this app.
Another Real Ale specialist app here and not the worst in the world. Shows all the pubs in the area that serve Darkstar beers, which as they're from Sussex, number quite a few in my area.
No review system but every other aspect makes this a worthwhile (non)investment. Decent listings and nice bits of info on specific beers and pubs.
So there you have what is hopefully a pretty comprehensive list of all the ways you can use your phone to find a pub. Of course there are apps of every description designed for the exact same thing in other areas of life.
Geo-locating apps are fast becoming a must-have on any smartphone and make discovering places in your local area fun and easy.
Of course, even if you don't know code, you could start learning how to make your own geo-location apps after you've been on our Non-Developers iOS App Training.
If there are any other (free) apps you think I've missed then let me know in the comments and I'll give them a test run. As for me, I'm off for a kebab and chips.
Happy pubbing everyone!