For 29 delicious years, the Zagat Survey (pronounced zuh-GAT) has been compiling restaurant ratings from user reviews all over the globe to help foodies and regular people find the perfect spot for a first date, romantic meal, or celebration. For considerably fewer years, it has made its renowned services available for mobile phones.
I reviewed the trial version of Zagat To Go (see all downloads) on a BlackBerry Curve (download) and Windows Mobile Palm Treo (download).
Zagat To Go for BlackBerry may have been custom-built for BlackBerry, but features a surprisingly basic home menu that's still stuck in the dinosaur days of Web 1.0 and doesn't feel suited to the BlackBerry's navigational pearl. If you can get past that, you'll find quick access to Zagat's flagship product of cleverly cobbled user reviews, plus pop-up ratings while in list view for food, decor, service, and average meal cost.
You would expect extras for a mobile edition, and Zagat To Go offers some. BlackBerry users can click to call an establishment, and pinpoint the location on a map. They can also get directions to and from the restaurant, e-mail the location, and add it as a calendar item or contact. However, the app doesn't take advantage of SMS or link to the restaurant's Web site.
The Windows Mobile version of Zagat To Go looks like a distant cousin with its ratings tiles, notes section, and tabbed windows. Like the BlackBerry version, you can plot your selection on the map, get directions, and add it to your contacts list or calendar. However, click-to-call is completely absent, and there's no Web site listed, let alone hyperlinked.
In both products, Zagat is passing up two opportunities. The first is mobile Web usability in the form of hyperlinks; the second, a chance to revamp its pricing structure and offer a free-to-use product that scoops revenue from ads and coupons rather than from a subscription fee. Zagat To Go would be an appropriate outlet for targeted advertising, and a way to reward existing subscribers to Zagat.com with an upgrade to an ad-free version of the app.