One of the major announcements at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference this year was the unveiling of the new Maps mobile app, which will completely replace Google Maps as the default map in iOS 6. It comes with a bevy of new features, like 3D imagery, turn-by-turn navigation, and traffic alerts. But perhaps more importantly, the app will also include Yelp integration, allowing users to check-in and browse reviews of restaurants and businesses locally.
The completely in-house design (with some help from TomTom) follows a trend in mobile development: increased check-ins and social media integration. Developers, in fact, should take a hint from Apple and make their apps more linked; that is, more compatible with other applications, thereby increasing visibility on both fronts.
Hints of this integration were already evident in iOS 5’s Siri, which directs certain requests to Yelp, so it seems that Apple has been eyeing this market for a while. However, reviews of review-curating Yelp are mixed (ironically); the user-generated and driven reviews are the crowning glory of the app, but they’re also the bane of many business owners’ existences, as responding to negative reviews doesn’t remove that negativity from the business’s Yelp page. In short, the service doesn’t allow much back-and-forth between users and businesses. Keeping that in mind, Yelp integration does hold a lot of potential benefits for users, including more relevant restaurant suggestions, not to mention ratings, reviews, and the ability to make reservations through OpenTable.
Apple Versus Google
Aside from its implications for users, what does this switch mean for the big bad wolf — Google? June’s the month for new releases, it seems, and with each new Apple and Microsoft update, Google has one more to match. And it seems that Apple is fighting back by replacing Google Maps with its own software.
Not having Google’s software preinstalled on iOS 6 could be a big blow to the tech giant, but many point out that Google could just release a separate Google Maps app. Although this wouldn’t ship with new Apple products, many users could still feel compelled to download the app separately, especially since services like Yelp and TomTom are known to have a spotty track record outside of the United States. One issue to keep in mind, though, is the fact that Apple’s Maps will still be the default application that opens up when users click on links or addresses. The extra hassle of copy-and-pasting a link to Google Maps might not be worth it for the casual iPhone user looking for the nearest Indian restaurant.
Side note: It seems that Microsoft has also taken the hint and integrated Yelp into its search engine, Bing. Eh.
Yelp Versus Facebook and Foursquare
Of course, it goes almost unsaid that Facebook and Foursquare will feel the heat from the pairing of Yelp and Apple. Maybe even Twitter as well. All are invested in mobile check-ins, and with the integration of Yelp’s check-in services in Maps, Apple is directly competing with Foursquare and Facebook’s similar services. Especially since both are moving swiftly towards the realm of social discovery. All in all, mobile check-ins have become increasingly popular, since they allow smartphone users to share their location and favorite spots with friends and followers. They’re also a potential profit-machine for local businesses that know how to work their social media presence (i.e. through special offers centered on check-ins). With this integration, restaurants and businesses could see a rise in profits and visibility, but only time will tell.
What This Means For Yelp
In an interview with Bloomberg, analyst Aaron Kessler noted, “Apple is important for Yelp. About 40 percent of traffic to Yelp is from their mobile app. That number may be higher if you include browser-based mobile.” So, it seems that Yelp is on the winning side of this partnership, since the massive user base of iOS will no doubt bring an increase in engagement. The benefits for Apple, though, are still unclear at this point, especially since it’s starting from the ground up with the Maps app, which will certainly go through a transitional period before it’s established as a reputable and glitch-free app along the likes of Google Maps.
Moreover for Yelp, the rise in users that is inevitable with the integration is also good news in terms of advertising revenue. This will no doubt rise as more reviews bring more local businesses aiming to advertise and attract customers. And since local advertising accounts for nearly 70 percent of Yelp’s revenue, this is truly good news indeed. As for Apple, sucks to draw the short end of the stick!
(Image sources: Bloomberg, Gizmodo, Apple, Hard Working Designer)