Google is out with a dedicated iPhone app for Places. The app is built around local categories presented in a Grid — not unlike Facebook’s ubiquitous app or the iPhone home screen itself. The category browsing also makes it more of a discovery engine — a trend we continue to see.
The launch of this app is also interesting because on the desktop, Places usually works in the background and its listings are presented along with Google searches where local intent is inferred. In other words it’s less of a direct navigation site unto itself.
But the app ecosystem is more fitting to individual buckets of functionality. So Google has decoupled Places from general search and given users the chance to access its listings (pages) more directly. Hotpot social recommendations are also baked in (told you this would happen).
Generally speaking, in launching this app Google has thrown its hat into the ring among a competitive field of mobile local iPhone apps (already on Android). Then again we’re talking about Google: Lots of cross promotion, marketing muscle and simply brand equity could buoy the app.
As TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld points out, this could also be an effort to generate more reviews on Google Places from on-the-go mobile users. Places so far has mostly aggregated reviews from Yelp, Citysearch and others in order to get a worthwhile amount of content in place.
I’ll have a more thorough review of the app itself after I’m able to play with it for a while. Meanwhile you can download the free app directly on your iPhone or here.