Google Maps for Android Borrows A Yelp-ing Hand
Today, Google Maps 5.3 for Android was released and brought with it more changes that encroach on services offered by Yelp. Google has expanded its Google Places section by allowing custom rankable phrases to be added to every location. There's also some really wonderful new ways to visualize where you spend your time using the built-in Google Latitude service. One thing is for certain, it is definitely more useful than their Meow Me Now service.
If you're a more advanced user of Google Latitude, you’ve probably already enabled Location History on the web. It gives you the ability to keep track of where you've been and conveniently, how much further you would have to travel to have made a trip to the moon. That's not available on your Android device. Complete with a breakdown of where you spend your time (eg. Work, Home, Out) and how long you spend at each place. And, in contrast to most location-based services, it's completely private. No sharing your location to anyone, unless you specifically want them to be able to see it. Unlike most things online, sharing your location is still a scary prospect and Google's tight privacy controls are the right way to go for most people.
As an added nugget, Google now allows you to check in at home without sharing your home address. This gives you a chance to share with your family (and friends if you so desire,) that you’ve arrived home after a long journey, or perhaps after a drive home late at night. And with automatic check-ins now available, you won't even have to touch a button for it to work. As soon as you arrive, your phone will send out a note to the people you've allowed to see your location, that you’ve made it home safely. It's a great little feature that adds a simple, but useful service.
Google has also added a new feature to Google Places. You were always able to leave a review and check off ratings for some common features. If you were reviewing a restaurant, you'd be able to say whether various aspects, such as service, atmosphere, food, etc were good or bad. Now, you're able to add custom aspects and rate them as well. By simply typing in "restrooms" and clicking the sad face, you've let the next would-be customers know to venture into the bathrooms at their own risk.