Using the iPod and iPhone’s touch-screen capabilities, users of the new Sketch-a-Search app can outline an area on a map and search within that area for a specific type of business. The feature is specifically geared toward US restaurants and lets users search by details including ambiance, ratings and types of cuisine. The app is slated to expand to other business categories and countries soon.
This is especially nice if you live in one of those megalopolii (the plural of megalopolis, of course), where you can never be sure exactly what city that awesome Thai place was in (and who on earth would remember a ZIP code?).
The regular search app also includes some cool local features:
Since mobile searchers tend to ping-pong back and forth between map applications and search, we’ve integrated maps into the app to simplify the experience. The app also allows you to customize the local maps experience: Want to see more map and fewer local results? More results and less map? It’s totally up to you. . . .
Finally, we’ve made it easier to search for what’s nearby with location-based, local results. For example, if you’re searching for plumbers here in Sunnyvale, California, the app will detect that you’re likely looking for plumbers in this area and will provide you with results in a combined map-list view. As you scroll down the list of plumbers and their reviews, the app repositions the map with the currently selected item. You can also use the map to browse the associated ratings and reviews.
The search app also includes shortcuts for Yahoo’s Movies, Finance and News areas, as well as a voice to search feature.
I think these apps (especially Sketch-a-Search) are a big step forward for mobile search. While there may already be some similar offerings out there, the backing of a big brand like Yahoo can help these apps gain popularity. We can only hope that these apps and this kind of thinking can continue after the merger with Microsoft (you know, if/when).
What do you think? What other features would you like to see in mobile search?