Review: FutureTap Where To?
The original version of this review ran on August 10, 2010. We are re-running it in order to include the added section regarding the newest release of the app and how it works with the iPhone 6 and iOS 8.
Chances are, if you have an iPhone, it will serve as either your primary GPS navigation device or a handy spare at one point or another. Unfortunately, the built-in Google Maps-based app is a bit clunky, forcing you to buy a GPS application or deal with its quirks. If you chose the former, costs can skyrocket to nearly $100 for an app. FutureTap’s $2.99 Where To? app offers a much cheaper alternative just for finding things to see and do.
The software is not a turn-by-turn navigator, or a replacement for the Maps app, but functions as a companion to find things much easier. Typing words and phrases like “restaurants” or “shopping” in Maps may yield too many results, or gloss over the ones you’re looking for. Where To?’s initial screen presents a beautiful leather display with categories for a number of points of interest, including Food & Drink, Entertainment, Travel & Transportation, Health & Medical, Organizations, Emergency, Attractions, Government Offices, Education, Services, and Shopping. Selecting one of these allows one to pick more narrow categories, such as a type of food or the products sold at a store. Selecting a category will yield results either on a map or as a list.
The big selling point with Where To?, other than its relatively low price, is that it uses the existing information from Google Maps to find the nearest store or restaurant and then allows you to get directions to that location. Essentially, you get a more organized, purpose-driven Maps app. Two other nice touches on the app are a mileage indicator when a result is brought up and the Surprise Me option in many categories, allowing your iPhone to randomly pick something for you.
As stated earlier, the app has a very nice and uncluttered interface, complete with updates for iOS 4 and the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. Apparently Apple has taken notice about the interface on the newest patent application.
The only thing to keep in mind is that the application is not designed to compete with applications like CoPilot Live, Navigon MobileNavigator, TomTom, or any of the other GPS applications. In fact, it integrates with the Maps app, Navigon, or TomTom, clearly demonstrating that it is a companion for navigation products.
If you are happy with Maps, MobileNavigator, or TomTom and want a better way to find things near you, Where To? offers a better, easier, and cleaner interface for finding them. The same things could be done with these applications, although with much more hassle. For around $3, this product is a great value. In testing, the application came in handy, as I had just moved to a new town and am still learning the local restaurants and shops.
Where To? 3D
An added feature via a 99¢ in-app purchase is Where To? 3D, an augmented reality option for viewing results. Although augmented reality is nothing new for iPhone apps, it is nice to have it added to Where To’s feature set. To use it (once purchased), you simply tap the eye icon at the bottom of the screen and then your results are visualized using your iPhone’s built-in camera.
This feature works in both portrait (as included in the examples) or landscape views. Tapping a group of results will split them in an easier-to-read format. It’s hard not to compare this feature to a similar one found in Yelp—it would be nice if the visuals included distances (selecting an item brings up the information page with distances) and the ability to zoom by moving on the grid to items further away. You are able to zoom using semi-standard iPhone controls like pinch, double-tap, and two-finger tap, which make the markers larger or smaller. We have been told the distances were left off the markers to reduce visual clutter. This does make some sense, especially with how much detail has been put into making the visuals easy-to-read. Despite our complaints, it is a nice, inexpensive addition and to an already inexpensive app.
Where To? 7
We originally reviewed Where To? on August 2010. Since then, the application has remained mostly the same, but has been adapted for the iPhone 5/5S. Shortly before the launch of iOS 8, FutureTap launched a revised version of Where To? For previous users, version 7 was a separate paid update, an arguably fair upgrade, as the prior app was a updated for free for five years. $2.99 is a small price to pay to support good app development.
The biggest change is the iOS 7-style interface, flatting things out and using thinner lines and text. That being said, FutureTap kept the same creative wheel interface and offered even better information sheets for points of interest. At all times, the map is visible in the background and just a bit blurred, giving you a sense of place (for some reason, that felt very Jony Ive). It gives some interest to the interface, but also adds just a bit of subtle utility.
One item that’s really nice is the ability to swipe a category or point of interest to either favorite or get directions. It’s quick and easy to manipulate on all different sizes of iPhone displays. On the other hand, it seems that FutureTap has discontinued the Where To? 3D capability, found as an in-app purchase on prior versions. This was the augmented reality display that always felt a bit gimmicky, and not much more useful than looking at a map, especially in an area where there are a lot of businesses meeting your particular criteria.
Additionally, Where To? ties in with Pebble smartwatches and certain car navigation systems, as long as they’re expensive and German (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi). Still, it’s nice to see the expanded capabilities of this tool, especially if you have a device that plays nicely with it.
The update to this review had been held for the 7.1 update, as it brings support for iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. After a little bit of time testing it, the changes are welcome and the overall product still feels as cohesive and useful as ever. The update works flawlessly and is a great way to take an old favorite into the newer iOS era.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
Where To? provides a better way to find places compared to the Maps app or certain GPS products, especially if you are in an unfamiliar location and need information quickly.
Pros: Inexpensive, slick interface, convenient
Cons: Isn’t designed to replace GPS apps, same information available from a variety of other apps