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iPhone apps and the foodie

So I'm a big tech geek and the story this weekend will be the new iPhone 3G coming out around the world. Bigger than the actual phone itself is the new App store which in effect turns your phone into a mini mobile computer.

The 2 most obvious apps available to foodies at the launch are Yelp and Urbanspoon, both of which utilize the GPS to track down restaurants in your vicinity. While both of these look quite interesting, it's just the tip of the iceberg on what we could see in the future.

First and foremost, I can imagine all sorts of food reference material. I love cheese, but I'm not exactly a cheese expert. Sometimes you'll go to a fancy restaurant and see a nice cheese plate, but not know exactly what the different varieties are. Wouldn't it be nice to have a little app with infomation on cheeses of the world complete with pictures, descriptions, and history cross referenced with country of origin, age, and maybe related cheese families? I'm not a big wine drinker, but I imagine something like this could be a hit with the wine lovers. Heck, how about a sake compendium for someone who frequents Japanese restaurants?

I love to travel to try cool foreign foods, but I end up spending inordinate amounts of time searching for blogs and checking through long forum threads to find information on where to find great food gems. Even in places with a handy food guide like the Makansutra in Singapore, it's a huge headache trying to find things with the lack of an abilty to sort and organize all the different entries. And that's not to even mention trying to figure out where it is and how you get there once you know where you want to go. Imagine some kind of collaberative food guide for Bangkok, for instance, which listed good restaurants, had some decent maps to show you where they are, and could display the name and address of the restaurant in large Thai script so you could just show it to the cab driver!

I think chowhound.com is THE definitive food resource online for serious foodies and I'd love to see this site get in on the iPhone App action with a cool app. The format doesn't lend itself to an app as easily as Yelp, but I'm sure there are tons of ways to make it happen.

Anyway, none of my ideas are very original or innovative. They're all really simply things that don't revolutionize anything. That gives me hope that someone somewhere out there is trying something like this and the iPhone Apps era can take being a foodie to another level. :)

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  1. Why do you need a CH app? Just pull up the page in the browser. I was reading a review of the NY Times iPhone app and it was pointed out that going to the real website was faster and more intuitive than the application.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      While I can and do frequently go to chowhound.com through my iPhone, I can see an app designed especially for the iPhone's dimensions much more user friendly. For example, I have to zoom in on every page in order click the tiny links on the text. I have to wait for a reload on every click whereas a simple nested boards menu on the front of an iPhone app would save a ton of time, especially since the first 2 pages before you get to the board itself never change.

      One good example of a site that can make the iPhone browsing experience much better is Facebook. I haven't checked out the native Facebook app, but their Safari app designed for the iPhone is so much better than the normal web version. It's not as cluttered and switching views and pages is much much quicker and easier.

      And that's just basic presentation of text pages. There's a lot of functionality that's possible to incorporate into chowhound to make it better. Maybe the people who run the site want to keep it simple and text-focused, but there's a ton of potential for it to be a lot more.

    2. Oh yay, a Yelp app. Just the thing for when "yo, my budz 'n' me wanto kick it wit some KILLER MARGZ!!!!!1!." Which is...oh, right, never.

      3 Replies
      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        The talk feature isn't included ;)

        It actually looks pretty cool/useful given that the business' addresses are stored in the DB. It picks up your location on the GPS and shows you what is nearby. That's the main difference on having a Yelp app vs. a CH app in that Yelp can be made more useful if it knew where you were for those sorts of searches.

        1. re: jgg13

          I shouldn't tease, I've actually been looking very hard at the new iPhone, thinking about biting the bullet on it, and the GPS and supposedly improved web browser are big reasons why. When it comes out tomorrow, I'd love to hear from some early adopters specifically about how well it works with the CH website. Allstonian and I are big fans of the random road trip ("oh, here's another highway, let's see what happens if we turn west") and it would be handy indeed if we could use Chowhound as a resource.

          I'm just kind of blanching at dropping $70 a month for a glorified cellphone -- given how rarely I use it, my Virgin Mobile keeps me in contact with the few folks who need me at any given time for about $10 a month.

          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            I'm planning on at least attempting to get one tomorrow although I refuse to get in line behind crazy idiots who have been hanging around for a week or something. I was just going to stop by the cambridgeside galleria on my way to work - if it ain't crazy I'll pick one up.

            I came to the conclusion that 95% of what I do/want to do with a handheld device more involves things like the web browser, messaging, gps, etc and not so much the phone itself. I had actually been considering just getting an iPod Touch and perhaps ditching my phone altogether but the 3G iPhone seemed like a decent (albeit more expensive overall) compromise.

            If I do end up getting one this weekend I'll try to remember to report back here how things roll w/ CH.

      2. The killer app: Where's the restroom

        Via GPS linked to a diagram of the resto showing a dotted line "From Here ... To Here".

        Cool!

        1. On the same line of thought as your Cheese Reference application, I just found out about "SushiTime" from a fellow foodie. It's a great reference app for sushi that I got for my iPod Touch. It has a list of sushi terms and pictures and remembers your favorites. It's probably not meant for sushi experts but it filled in holes for my friend and helped me explore different sashimi (and remember which ones I liked :)).

          2 Replies
          1. re: captcanuk

            Love the idea of the sushi app! Think I'll download it now! :)

            My favorite food app is Local Eats, although I must say, UrbanSpoon is great when i'm looking for the nearest Starbucks to post up with my laptop. I have never liked Yelp much bc it just seems like a ton of complaints. I wish there was a simple list of the best apps somewhere...too hard to know about them all!

            1. re: pinotnpizza

              There are thousands of apps with new ones coming out every week. Starbucks has its own that will show you where you are and where stores are in relation to you (not unlike just using the "maps" feature and "Starbucks" in the search box) but when you point at a location on the actual Starbucks app, it lists the address, phone, if it is open right now and the amenities available (like drive through, oven warmed food, wireless hotspot) and other features on the App is much information about all the coffees and how to select one to your liking as well as a way to save you or your friends favorite drink orders (along with their respective nutrition information. It's cute.

              There is also another Starbucks App that you can download that shows your registered Starbucks card and its balance and also is being tested in 16 locations in the PNW as a scannable, instead of even having to carry the card with you.

              I have used some coupons found on Apps (AAA has some rolling across the top as well as part of the App) so having your card information stored on the iPhone seems easy enough.

              I never liked Yelp as a resource. I do prefer to walk in and find out if a place is good for myself. If it is busy and people are not running out in droves, how bad could it be?

          2. I don't have an iphone and don't plan to get one, but the following sounds interesting.

            CookBook – So you have all these ingredients in your house but you’re not sure what to make with them. This Web app will let you input ingredients and will try to come up with some recipes that you can make using those ingredients.

            1. i-phone's "VeganYumYum has searchable recipes from the wildly popular veganyumyum.com, while Veggie Passport enables users to communicate their dietary needs in 33 languages." This sounds useful.

              1. Timmyme.

                Same as the Starbucks app but for Tim Horton's.

                There's also McFinder.

                DT

                1. I agree that a chowhound app would be helpful. I am not a huge fan of chowhound in safari on the iphone. What do people who use CH on safari use it for when on their iPhone?

                  I like AroundMe and Epicurious too. I use epicurious all the time while in the supermarket.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ral217

                    How do you use Epicurious in the supermarket? Do you see something fresh or on special and then look for recipes to use it so you can be sure you have all the ingredients?

                    I happen to love Grocery IQ for keeping my grocery list. I walk through the supermarket aisles with my iphone in hand.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I find I use the Epicurious app for looking up recipes when I want to try a different bulk grain for soups or want to do something different for dinner. It is very user friendly app and will even make a shopping list for a certain recipe.

                      I'll have to check out grocery IQ. Although, I tend to use the Notes app where my standard grocery list is.

                  2. Any idea if there is a good food/pantry inventory app? I was hoping for an app that lets you scan/add manually food you bought and keeps track on expiry dates as well as a function where I can re-stock i.e. compile a shopping list. Thanks.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: josey124

                      I found one I like: Grocereaze