Yesterday, Yahoo let loose with two new iPhone applications: A dedicated search app, and a refreshing take on location searching called “Sketch-A-Search.”
The new search app is a complete overhaul of Yahoo’s earlier iPhone application — which was released last year and consolidated the company’s web services in one spot (much like Google’s iPhone app). Instead of distracting you with all of Yahoo’s other offerings, the new app is purely dedicated to search.
It offers up a simple search box when launched, and you have the option of performing a voice search as well. Once the search gets going, the location-aware app shows you local search results via Yahoo Maps on the top of the screen, and standard web results below. The app pulls local results from a variety of sources, including Yahoo Local and Yelp, so it ends up being fairly comprehensive. Ultimately, it’s not anything truly groundbreaking, and it was likely pushed out to compete with Microsoft’s Bing app which was released in December.
Far more intriguing is the Sketch-A-Search app, which does exactly what you’d think. The app presents you with a map of your local area when launched, and by clicking the large sketch button, you’re given free rein sketch out an area of the map for a local search. It’s more accurate than the distance filtering that Yelp’s iPhone app offers, and it’s immensely useful for finding local results in a very specific area.
We were impressed when we saw the technology demonstrated several months ago, and the final app lives up to our early impressions. Currently, the app only supports local restaurant searching in the U.S., but Yahoo says that it will expand to other activities and countries soon. You can also filter the specific types of restaurants that you’re looking for, and search maps of other cities, but the app doesn’t offer many more options beyond that.
What’s most interesting about Sketch-A-Search is its simplicity. I’ve often felt the desire to select a specific portion of a map for searching, and Yahoo’s method is a minimal and intuitive method for doing so.