iPhone Yelp gets happy hour deals, moving maps

Major changes to how Yelp handles popular community features, mapping, and Web search brings its iPhone app up a couple notches in terms of practicality and ease of use. It's about time.

Yelp 3.0 on iPhone

Don't worry, you can always write your own.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

The original Yelp for iPhone was a skeleton of its online self when it first debuted. Since then, Yelp has been layering on the muscle. The improvements in Yelp for iPhone 3.0 plump the app even more, bringing both important functionality from the Web version and some mobile-friendly enhancements.

Deal-seekers will notice a new category in the Nearby search screen for sales and other offers, listing happy hour deals, coupons, an even specials just for Yelpers. (Ooh, free beverages at the 4.5-star Creperie Saint Germain!) This makes a lot of sense in a mobile app, and could help Yelp boost revenue sales if this form of location-based mobile advertising catches on with Yelp's community. Registering offers through Yelp is currently free for businesses.

Frequent Yelpers will also appreciate the ability to mark reviews as useful, funny, and cool, just like you can online. Compliments have also arrived from the online version, letting you give a reviewer additional kudos. If the suggested text is too cheesy for your tastes, you can clear it or add your own.

Movable maps are another addition. Instead of seeing a static image when you click to map a business, Yelp presents you with a map you can scroll with your finger. If you've searched and then scrolled around, the button "Redo Search Here" will apply your search terms (like special offers) to the new location.

There are more welcome changes beyond these community features. Yelp has finally (finally!) integrated a browser into its app--no longer will tapping a business' URL kick you out of the app and over to the Safari browser. If you misspell a word (and completely ignore search suggestions,) Yelp 3.0 will pop up a notification within the app to ask if you meant "restaurant" instead of "restarant." Yelp has also heeded user requests (ours included) to be able to e-mail a business' details and Yelp.com page URL to a buddy. This will help facilitate lunch and dinner invites.

Combined, these changes add up to a familiar, useful, and full-featured tool for on-the-go business-seekers. The major lasting complaint we have is that Yelp still offers only hacks for composing reviews, not a straightforward solution to write freely as you would online.

Yelp for iPhone 3.0 is available for free from the iTunes app store. You can also get started downloading it via your computer from Download.com.

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