Qype is an online entertainment and shopping review service, and Qype Radar is the phone app to bring the power of local user reviews to your mobile.
Finding your way around in a strange city - or even one you think you know - can be a lot easier using Qype's collective online review service.
Qype is a net-based reviews database, collating the opinions and ratings of anybody that cares to contribute. The most prominent reviews are those of restaurants, bars and clubs; but you'll also find there anything from hotels and shops to hairdressers and health clubs.
To read the reviews and browse relevant photos, you can read the full reports online at the qype.com website. But the beauty of such a service becomes apparent as soon as you're on the hoof. It's its very portability, letting you dial up the information you need at whim when you're out and about.
All you need is the free Qype Radar browser software installed on your mobile phone. Software apps are available for iPhone and Google Android platforms; we tested the service using the evergreen iPhone 3G handset in and around London.
Because Qype is dependent on reviews from ordinary users, these vary in length and quality. But when a restaurant, say, garners a number of five star ratings and is backed with glowing reviews, you can be fairly certain that the consensus is worth listening to. Or that the restaurant owner has many complicit friends who've registered with Qype!
If you like what you read, there's an easy to read information page that means you could check the venue's own website or simply phone to reserve a table.
Once you've registered with the Qype site, you can upload your own reviews with Qype Radar, even while you're enjoying the ambience - or not - of the venue in question.
Thanks to the Apple iPhone's ease of use, and the Qype Radar software's accessible interface, you can tap out a few lines of a review, and then take a picture with the phone's camera and upload it there and then.
The Qype Radar app makes good use of a phone's GPS facility, so that by typing ‘vegetarian' into the search field, it will automatically geo-locate meat-free dining options close to your present location. Or you could specify a place or postcode, if you're planning ahead for where you'll likely be later.
Within central London we found Qype Radar could find dozens of bars or restaurants very locally. Moving around our home area, beyond the South Circular, there would still be a useful number of hits but perhaps a few kilometres rather than metres further afield.
The service also has international listings, with Qype boasting listings for 6000 towns and cities in Europe. (Qype was founded by someone moving to Hamburg, looking for personal recommendations of local services.)
As with any data roaming service, you will get punished when off British turf: for the iPhone on O2, it's to the tune of £6 per megabyte of data, £3 in Europe. You may think that's worth paying though, if you're longing for local knowledge next time you find yourself in Kraków, for example, looking for hot tips on Italian food. Many overseas reviews will be written in the local language though, so if you don't speak the lingo, your choice of reviews narrows somewhat.
There's a refreshing lack of annoying ads within the app's interface. Qype is instead financed by an annual fee paid by the listed service to Qype, to keep its entry in the Qype directory.
The Qype application works well on Apple’s handset, and user reviews can be invaluable for honest advice on where to go – and often as importantly, where not to go. Users contribute for free, giving a potentially huge body of unpaid writers to populate the company’s database. Qype works hard too though, to foster a sense of community for its users and contributors, for without their reviews there will be no service. And it’s a service definitely worth trying.