The initial list of eight categories looks a bit thin on the ground, but tapping on ‘More categories’ opens up another dozen, presented in a separate list, somewhat bizarrely. Even more strangely, there’s no way to collapse these extra categories again, to show just the original eight – why the full set wasn’t kept as one list is beyond me.
However, get past this glitch and there’s something for everyone in the categories on offer. You pick a category (e.g. ‘Fashion’) and are shown entries presented in order of distance from your current position. Tap on one and you’ll see the address, contact details, plus, crucially, the chance to drill down further to read user reviews and see user photos. Qype claim to have a quarter of a million registered users available for writing reviews for their system. Tapping on the address, as you’d expect, brings up the location in a Google Maps rendering, although you have to use the supplied button to close Qype and open the full Google Maps application if you want anything ambitious like directions.
So far so good then, but Qype, as with every other ‘point-of-interest’ system, is ultimately only as good as its underlying database of places. Qype didn’t do badly, in that almost every category brought up suitable matches, from restaurants to petrol stations, that were genuinely not too far away. So at least it’s not leaving you high and dry. But it could do a lot better. In most cases, my own local knowledge could supply a better and closer restaurant, hairdresser, coffee shop, and so on.
Trying the same ‘searches’ in Google Maps (built into every iPhone or iPod Touch) provided more matches and direct routing, albeit without the user reviews and photos. Still, in order to really replace the big ‘G’ for this sort of thing, a third party system has got to at least match its underlying data – though I can understand that this must be a somewhat daunting task.
Qype lets itself down again by the scarcity of photos – having majored on putting thumbnails besides each place of interest in every listing, it’s disappointing to see most of the gaps not filled in.
I’m sure Qype Radar will acquit itself better in big cities (many of the matches for my somewhat rural location turned out to be in the nearest city) and in some cases may even turn out to be a useful search and social tool – but in the light of Google Maps’ own search system it’s tempting to file this as an interesting also-ran.