Yelp’s New iPhone Application

I saw this piece on CNET about Yelp planning a “splashy debut” in the “location-aware mobile market.” I contacted Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman to ask him about it and he confirmed that the company was going to launch an application for the iPhone leveraging its location-sensing capabilities. Those may include GPS in this next device.

Yelp mobile

Yelp has had a WAP site for at least a couple of years. So the fact of a mobile Yelp is not a new thing. However, one of the challenges for Yelp is the fact that on a small mobile screen (even Blackberry or HTC phones) you have trouble reading reviews and sorting through all the listings. There’s currently no “refine by rating” feature, for example.

What the GPS (or Wifi or cell-tower triangulation) does is help you see what’s closest to you. That’s great especially if you’re traveling. But it’s not a revelation. For example, what if I’m over here but I want to eat or meet someone way across town? GPS doesn’t help me. Neighborhood filters do in that case.

Undoubtedly the iPhone app will be a much nicer version of the current Yelp WAP site. And the iPhone’s large screen will allow users to actually read some of the reviews.

What people need to understand, however, is that GPS on the phone isn’t the second coming. It’s very useful but not foolproof and generally needs to be augmented by other technologies (cited above) to work all the time (GPS won’t work in tunnels or inside buildings often).

Let’s talk about advertising now.

Yesterday I wrote about the ShopLocal-Yahoo! announcement. In theory it’s highly personalized advertising. As ShopLocal CMO Bob Armour explained it to me yesterday with mantra-like repetition: “right ad, right time, right place.”

This is the exact promise repeatedly heard about mobile advertising: specific offer to specific individual at a specific time and place. But the “ad inventory” doesn’t generally exist at this level of precision yet.

If I’m in midtown Manhattan and Yelp happens to have an advertiser within a defined range of where I am (or where I’m going) it can show that ad. But we’re not yet at the point where there are enough ads by neighborhood and/or category to serve them on a block by block basis. Maybe that will come someday once the advertisers see that the “infrastructure” to serve ads on that basis is present.

One of the things I didn’t ask Stoppelman about was whether there would be a “friend finding” layer on the new app. That’s what services such as Where’s Buddy Beacon, Loopt, Whrrl, Brightkite and others offer. Whrrl has a “passive” way to gain recommendations through GPS. But vs. most mobile applications that seek to combine entertainment content and social networking, Yelp is way ahead and will likely see lots of uptake and usage on the iPhone app.

Yelp and its would-be competitors are right in the sweet spot of mobile search right now: entertainment.

Those who are interested in seeing a report on mobile queries and local content that I just wrote for Local Mobile Search clients, What Do 20 Million Queries Tell Us About Mobile Search?, can email me and I’ll send you a copy.


Note: The screenshot above is of the current WAP application and not the new iPhone app.


7 Responses to “Yelp’s New iPhone Application”

  1. brendan lally Says:

    Interested in your report


  2. Amy Says:

    would love to see a copy of that report.


  3. Brenda Says:

    Would like to receive a copy of your report. Thanks!

  4. Paul Patten Says:

    hi Greg
    i’m a student and was really interested in seeing the report

  5. GPS App Guy Says:

    There’s free app and services offeres the capability to search nearby business via GPS or address book with Yelp Reviews. It support almost every phone.

    You can also one click for turn by turn navigation with voice instruction. It looks really cool and offers most iPhone features.

    Free download at

  6. Stacy Says:

    The best Yelp mobile app is not by Yelp, it’s LifeInPocket.

  7. Tony Says:

    Great article! I really like the fuctionality of the yelp app.

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