Android Places Directory, Leverages Location Not Search

Google has just put out an Android app called Places Directory (see also, Google Labs) which takes a page from the iPhone app "Around Me." It organizes content into popular categories and uses the phone's location awareness to show people the nearest hotels, restaurants, attractions, bars, banks, shopping, taxis, etc. It's also not unlike Earthcomber's LBS app as well.

Places Directory is especially noteworthy because there's no search box anywhere in the app itself, although it can be searched via the search button on the handset. It emphasizes browsing, although the consumer intent is still directional -- to find a restaurant, hotel, etc. So from that standpoint it's no different than a search query. But it's more convenient and effective than using search because it offers a range of choices (including ratings, maps, details) in close proximity to the user, without dealing with links.

In a more polished way it reminds me of a mobile experiment Google launched (mobile LCB) early last year that emphasized browsing over search.

At a press conference during the recent Google developer conference I asked a question about whether the mobile device presented challenges to search and whether search (as it has evolved online) might become a "secondary" tool for users, who might turn to apps or even bookmarks before a search box. The Google panelists and Tim O'Reilly were practically incredulous that such a question could be raised. While I might not have made the point clearly or well then, I think that the Places Directly does that pretty well now.