At a Glance
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Though Google's Places Directory has some useful features, it suffers from too many omissions in data and search capabilities to be a truly useful app.
Google's Places Directory works like an address book of local businesses that's easy to access by cell phone. The default places you can browse are restaurants, bars, attractions (which includes bars for some reason), shopping, gas stations, coffee, banks, hotels, movie theaters, medical, taxis, and parking. You can also try running your own searches and seeing what comes up, though I I failed to obtain meaningful results with this approach.
Once you've select a location, the app will provide a rating for the place, the distance it lies from your current location, the its address, and its phone number. Buttons enable you to dial up the phone number, view it on Google Maps, view the gallery (if any images are available for the location), share the information via e-mail or text, or add it to your contacts list. The app is also supposed to display user-written reviews, but they never loaded when I used the Places Directory. In contrast, I found it extremely easy to write and submit a review.
In comparison with the breadth of information you can view on Google Maps, Places leaves a lot to be desired. If you look at a location's information on Google Maps, you get the same information that you would in Places, but frequently you also get such useful data as the hours of business operations, a Website, reviews that actually load, a link to the menu (in the case of restaurants), and forms of payment accepted. None of that information appears in Places, which makes me question the value of having the app at all.
Browsing the listed places in a dense area is a chaotic experience. Places seems to organize its lists of potential destinations by distance from you; but without any filtering criteria, this isn't always helpful. If I didn't like the results I saw, I was pretty much out of luck, since there's no option for viewing additional places. And though you might expect to be able to refine a search, sometimes that isn't possible. At the moment, I don't see how using Places offers a better way to find out about nearby businesses than running a search on Google Maps.