There’s a Maps app on your iPhone, a Google Mobile app that includes access to Google Maps, and now there’s a third option for Google-based local search and discovery: a dedicated Google Places app. It’s just announced today and is already available in the iPhone’s app store.
The app seems to focus more on the discovery side of local than on search, which distinguishes it from the Apple-produced, default Maps app that’s more about directions and navigation than about locating businesses. It also makes the Google Places app somewhat reminiscent of Yelp’s iPhone app, and even Urbanspoon to a lesser degree.
The home screen offers nine categories for browsing, and there’s no way to access a map until you’ve reached a set of business listings (the icon in the upper right on the image above leads to a map showing those Places/business listings).
The new Places app integrates Google Hotpot, the recommendation engine that shows friends’ ratings and reviews. Just yesterday, Google announced that Hotpot is being added on the Google Maps home page. That, coupled with today’s announcement, is a sign that Google is aiming to make the Places/Hotpot experience consistent across different platforms.
You can find the Google Places app by searching for “google places” in the app store. It’s free. Google Places with Hotpot was available for Android back in November when Hotpot launched.