Few things say “bewildered tourist” like standing on a sidewalk, guidebook in hand, as you scan the surroundings. But if you’re peering at the screen of a cell phone you look like you’re just sending a text message, even if you’re seeking dining advice with a free phone program.
The most widely used program of this sort is Google Maps (google.com/gmm), available for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm phones. In most cases, it quickly fixes your location and can then find nearby businesses by category (“restaurant”) or name (“Arnaud’s”). On some phones, it also provides Street View panoramas.
Google Maps doesn’t report much about what people think of the places it finds, but many newer location-aware applications can, most of them available on Apple’s iPhone via its App Store icon.
Yelp provides an immense database of user-contributed reviews of restaurants, bars, stores and much else. Its lengthy restaurant listings need more filtering options, and its locals-first advice can leave you guessing about hotels.
The plainer, perhaps more practical iWant simply lists the closest options in such travel-relevant categories as hotels, drugstores and banks. The program Where lets you choose from multiple review sources (Yelp included) as you pan around a map.
For looking up restaurants alone, UrbanSpoon links to multiple online reviews and offers the giggle-inducing option of shaking the iPhone like a Magic 8 Ball to get a random suggestion. But it covers only major cities.
OpenTable has similar coverage limits but also lets you see which places have tables free, then book one online.
Google’s new Android phone software, running on the T-Mobile G1, allows access to Wikitude drawing on articles from Wikitravel and guides you to this advice through the G1’s camera.