Welcome to another special food and drink edition of iOS Gems! Today, we’re taking a look at two apps designed to help users find and share photos of restaurant dishes, and a third app that helps people discover new beers.
All of these apps are in the “good” rather than “great” category. Foodspotting and Forkly are both well-designed apps, but as is common to budding social networks, they each suffer from a lack of users, especially in smaller cities. Today’s Beer is gorgeously executed, but would benefit from more features.
Released by the developer of the same name, Foodspotting (Free, version 3.2) is a social network for people who love to take pictures of their food, and want to easily share images and details with friends and strangers alike. It’s akin to a Foursquare designed around individual dishes, rather than the restaurants themselves. The app is broken down into five main categories: Explore, Places, Spot, Guides, and Follow, with the first serving as the default screen, leading off into its own subcategories. Here you have Specials, Nearby, Best Latest, Following, and Me, each of which display shots of different foods that can be tapped for more information and input from other diners. Places pulls up a map, allowing you to see food that has been spotted in different geographic areas. Guides are lists of recommended foods; you can see featured guides, as well as those from people you’re following. The last tab is for adding people, places, or foods to follow. It integrates with Facebook, Twitter, and iPhone contacts to pull in other people who are using the app.
The guts of the app lay in the center button, Spot, which lets you upload your own photos to share with the world. After a tap to choose your photo, you enter where the photo was taken, the dish’s name, and other information, including a “Loved” button that can be toggled on or off.
Foodspotting is an easy to use app that may come in handy for the “foodie” segment of the population. Although the overall design is derivative of many of the social networks out there right now, the brown and green color scheme is nice, and the food-focused functionality can be useful when seeking out a worthwhile dish. Like any other new social network, the major problem this app faces is scale; it’s really only useful if a certain critical mass of people use it. In Western New York, for example, we found only about 10 other users from our social networks, and most of them had no posts. Larger cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. have more users and tags, although the numbers aren’t exactly overwhelming. As a tool for sharing great dishes, Foodspotting does its job well. Its dish-focused organization isn’t for everyone, though, and the limited user base limits the overall appeal. For now, it’s worthy of our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.
Forkly’s Forkly (Free, version 2.0.4) is quite similar to Foodspotting, which was launched about a year and a half earlier. Both are designed as ways to share and find food, although this one has more a focus on restaurants, and not just individual food items. The heart of the app is in the discovery tab. Tapping on it pulls up options to see what’s good if you’re already at a restaurant or bar, or to find great dishes in a number of categories—these are set when users tag dishes.
We like these extra features, and think they add a bit to the overall appeal of the app. Unfortunately, the number of people using Forkly is even lower than what we found with Foodspotting: for every restaurant we tried to pull up in the Buffalo area, we got the same message: “Sorry, we don’t have any items to show you at this venue yet :(.” As would be expected, larger cities did have more results, but still not the sort of huge numbers we’d want to see when doing research with a dedicated app.
Forkly’s team did a nice job with the app’s design, especially the restaurant pages, which feature large photos somewhat like Facebook’s Cover Photo feature. This has the potential to be a more useful discovery tool than Foodspotting, but it simply needs more contributors to become worthy of a space on our iPhones. The app on its own merits is worthy of a general recommendation; over time, if it succeeds in reaching more users, it could be a very big deal. iLounge Rating: B.
Early-humans’ recently-released Today’s Beer ($1, version 1.0) is a beautifully designed universal app focused on a simple task: showcasing one different beer every day. The first thing that pops up when the app is launched is a view of that day’s bottle on a wooden table, set against a dark background, along with the phrase “TODAYS BEER.”, a 360° symbol, and a plus button. Tapping the first symbol brings up a loading indicator that lasts for about three seconds before allowing you to spin the bottle all the way around, using a movie-like collection of beautifully shot photographs to let you rotate the bottle through 360 degrees of motion. Hitting the plus icon loads information about the beer: its name, brewery, location, type, and ABV. From here, there’s also the option to see what the beer looks like in a glass, with a single attractive photograph. From there, you can tweet information about the beer, or tap the back and forward buttons to see up to a week’s worth of past beers, or a hint about tomorrow’s.
There are some things we’d like to see from this app that would greatly increase its value, although they’d have to be well-thought out in order to integrate into the pleasantly bare UI. Rather than holding just a week’s worth of previous beers, access to the entire history would allow users to not have to worry about missing any, and would ensure that late adopters gets the same experience as early ones. In addition, although the App Store description promises “Complete Beer Profiles,” there’s really no such thing; tapping the brewery’s name is the only way to get to additional details, and then only through an external link to the brewer’s web site. We’d like to see the app include more information about the beer itself, such as flavor profile, pairings, and reviews. The addition of these components would take Today’s Beer from a cool showcase with great design to a genuinely useful tool for beer fans. Until that time, it earns our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.