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7/27/2007
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Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Is InfoSpace's New iPhone App Better Than Just Using Google Search?

InfoSpace made its Find It application available for the iPhone today. Using a screen with iPhone-esque buttons in the browser, users can search for restaurants, stores, health care providers and such. Are the results more useful than Google's?

InfoSpace made its Find It application available for the iPhone today. Using a screen with iPhone-esque buttons in the browser, users can search for restaurants, stores, health care providers and such. Are the results more useful than Google's?First off, Find It is a consolidated, browser-based application to help you find specific, relevant items quickly. It has eight predetermined search parameters that focus on finding businesses or services in a given locality. They are: Dine Out, Go Out, Shop, Travel, Health, Services, Number, and Person. Since its search functions are limited to those eight, I basically performed Google searches in my zip code with those same eight parameters as my search terms. (I changed "Dine Out" to "Restaurant" and "Go Out" to "Bars".)

The nice thing about Find It is that you don't have to type anything except for the zip code. Once you have, it remembers that location and lists it as an option for future searches. Hitting the "Dine Out" button brings you to a short list of search options, such as "all restaurants", "Mexican" and so on. I tapped "all restaurants" and watched as 50+ results popped up for my town. Five are listed at a time, and the distance and street address are clearly listed on the screen. Clicking on the name of a restaurant brings up its full address and phone number, which can be automatically dialed from the browser.

You can also choose to map the locations five at a time. The one bummer is you can't get directions directly from the map results. You have to choose the restaurant and then select to get directions from there. It gives basic directions from the center of the zip code used to perform the search. The vast number of results, though, and the ability to narrow down search results by cuisine type makes getting useful and relevant results a snap.

Now it is Google's turn. I searched for "restaurants" in my zip code. The top three results were displayed at the top of the screen, followed by a list of general search results. Each result listed the address and phone number, which could be dialed directly from the first search page. You could click on any of these results and it would automatically take you into the Google Maps application, showing you where the restaurant was located on the map along with the other results. From here, choosing any of the particular restaurants gives you all the normal options found in the Google Maps app, including door-to-door driving directions and adding the restaurant as a contact. If you wanted to view more of the results beyond the initial three, there is a little link that reads: More & Local Map. This takes you to all the results and the Google Maps application.

Google's mapping capabilities were a bit more refined that InfoSpace's, but Find It holds its own for a number of reasons. The Google results were limited to just 10 restaurants. Fully half of them were national fast-food chains. Find It listed nearly everything in the vicinity, and included a nice dose of local mom-and-pop type places. With Google, once the Google Maps application was opened, there was no "back" function to take you to the original results. You had to hit the "home" button on the iPhone and then re-open the browser. Find It's maps remain in the browser page, and you can go back to previously viewed pages easily.

Both searches performed equally well at making addresses and phone numbers easy to see and use. Each lets you perform more targeted results if you are looking for a specific restaurant or place to eat. Performing a search for McDonald's produced the same results in both Find It and Google.

As much as I worship at the altar of Google, I have to say, Find It was more intuitive and produced a much better list of results that mattered to me.

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