Your Pocket Guide In A Strange City

Google Places on your smartphone can help you find your way about town.

It has long been suspected that there is something in the Y chromosome that prevents men from asking for directions. While we refrain from delving into sociobiological and psychological research, a 2010 study by British insurers Sheilas’ Wheels found something interesting: the average male driver drives 276 miles lost every year, wasting £2,000 in fuel over their lifetime. With fuel prices soaring every now and then, that figure is due for a revision. Luckily for present-day road warriors, they can slyly check Google Places on their smartphones.

With this Google Maps service on their smartphones, users can find the nearby restaurants, cafes, bars, tourist attractions, gas stations, ATMs and more. The ‘Explore’ tab details the churches, malls, schools, hotels and more in the vicinity. One can also create searches for places one might need to go to during a visit to a new city: supermarkets, car rentals, florists and so on.

Against each place, you can read the reviews, call the listed number, share it, find directions, and add it as a contact so that it is easier the next time you are in town. And now, the recent Google Map 5.5 update for Android devices has added a one-touch access to check in and rate places, which makes it easier for the next newcomer in town to choose his destination. The ‘People like you’ recommendations are based on Google’s Hotpot engine, which compares the places rated by a user against places rated by other Google Places users, and identifies those who share similar tastes.

The only grouse for the user is that the first page has only seven listings, which are not listed as per proximity. It doesn’t help the user that businesses are vying for these top spot through SEO measures. But with a system that does not support efficacy, the new review and ratings do come in handy. According to a release by Google’s Webspam team, Google asks 200 questions of each submission to Google Places before determining the top 7 spots for any search query.

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