Battle of the Location-Based Smartphone Apps: Which is Best for Travelers?


Gear and Gizmos  

Mayor of the coffee shop, duke of the bookstore, newbie in a new town.

Battle of the Location Apps: Foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. Yelp Location-based travel apps have gathered a lot of buzz lately. If your friends are attention junkies, the facebook and twitter updates when they “check in” at their favourite joints might be driving you crazy.

But travelers: don’t dismiss these smartphone apps as a vain popularity contest — you could miss out on the best mochaccino and croissant of your life. To save you time, FlightNetwork has done the heavy lifting to help you pick the best one.

We looked at three of the most popular applications for travelers: Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp. Read on to see why you should download an app, how our competitors performed and who claimed the travel trophy.

(note: Facebook Places is getting popular because of the 500 million users; however there is very little info for travelers, so we didn’t include it in this review.)

1) Preparing for battle: Why use an app?

Traveler lost in a new city These apps aren’t only about who can claim the most “check ins”… they can be your key to the best local info in a city.

Location-based travel apps on your smartphone are like a travel guide on steroids and your best friend in a foreign city… combined in one tidy package that fits in your pocket.

Imagine: you’re visiting a foreign city where you don’t know any locals. After visiting the museums, you want to rest your feet at a café. You could visit an overpriced joint from your travel guide, settle for Starbucks… or tap your phone and find the hidden gem in the Latin Quarter all the hipsters are raving about.

Location-based travel apps let you experience the best secrets of every city you visit. You’ll quickly believe you’re a local, too.

2) The battle

For certain cities, the simple winner might be whichever app has users there: not every city has many users posting places and reviews on smartphone apps (unfortunately, Canadian cities feature even fewer reviews).

For most popular travel destinations, FlightNetwork’s shot-by-shot comparison will help you decide which app is best:

Foursquare vs Gowalla vs Yelp: Comparison chart of location-based smartphone apps

3) Knockout Punch: Yelp Monocle – augmented reality on the iPhone

Yelp Monocle If you are an iPhone user, Yelp delivers a knockout punch in a completely unique feature.

The Monocle turns on your camera and displays Yelp information through augmented reality. “Augmented reality” is a remarkable tool for travelers: it replaces your eyes with the eyes of a local who knows everything about the city you’re visiting.

As you land in a city, you look through your phone’s camera at what’s around. The app displays pop-ups over the live camera image to show you what’s available in the direction you’re looking. Need a restaurant?: turn around and see all the restaurants pop up in every direction. Then click on the restaurant listing to read reviews. (watch the Monocle perform in this video)

Your days of feeling lost in a new city are over.

The verdict: Yelp takes home the travel trophy


Yelp is the best location-based smartphone app For iPhone users, Yelp’s augmented reality Monocole makes it a clear-cut winner.

On all other devices, though, Yelp still comes out ahead as the most useful smartphone app for travelers.

It boils down to an important distinction. Yelp is a travel tool first, geared to giving detailed information when you need it. Foursquare and Gowalla focus on the check-in feature, which means they’re geared toward getting information from those who visit locations frequently.

  • Yelp has the best reviews and ratings: Yelp started as a travel information website with 31 million monthly visitors, then added smartphone apps to help travelers browse that library of reviews and ratings. Foursquare and Gowalla only get info from users when they check-in on their phone.
  • Yelp sorts your results: nothing’s worse than getting to a café an hour after closing. Yelp is the only app that lets you sort locations by rating, price and even “open now.”

When you need info on the fly – or as you’re flying around the world – Yelp is your tool.

entry by Andrew Kaszowski

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