The iPhone and now the iPad can be great tools for the modern foodie. It seems the folks at iTunes understand that too.
The App Store Quick Links menu on the upper right of the iTunes home page now has ‘Apps for Foodies’ right under App of the Week. That is a pretty strong endorsement from Apple that the foodie demographic overlaps with the iPhone demographic. I suspect Apple also is trying to create appeal for the iPad with foodies. Makes sense; the large, color touch screen makes the iPad a good appliance for the foodie. It goes shopping with you, helps you plan a meal and when you get home I can see the iPad going into a cradle to make a place to get recipes both stored and online. An app that pulls all that together would be pretty great. On the other hand, if I splatter red sauce on my iPad I might freak out.
So what do you get when you click on the link that says Apps for Foodies? Let’s take a look . There are 42 apps that the geeks at Apple consider food apps. This is actually a small fraction of the food focused apps in the store, so Apple must be picking the winners somehow. All the usual suspects from the foodie cable TV & cookbook universe are there to give you recipes – Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman and even Nigella Lawson made the cut. The Food Network has an app. So does Weber, with tips for grilling. There are apps for eating out like Zagats, Opentable and Urbanspoon, a Seattle company. Wine and cheese are well represented as well as shopping brands like Whole Foods and Betty Crocker, which provides coupons.
Price differences of the paid apps is interesting. Nigella and Jamie want $7.99 for their apps, but Martha only changes $0.99. Zagats think their reviews are worth $9.99 (the priciest on the list) while Urbanspoon will provide you with all you can eat user reviews for free.
Frankly most of these apps seem pretty boring. Do I need another way to reach these brands or find a recipe from a cable food celebrity? Are they offering me anything on my mobile I can’t get online? No and no. I’m looking for apps that have a unique mobile foodie experience. Apps that give me something I can’t get anywhere else.
There are 2 apps in the collection that offer the foodie something unique to mobile. Locavore, another Seattle company we reviewed on Fresh By Northwest recently has an app that helps you find farmer’s markets with your iPhone. The other is Foodspotting which has a mobile twist on the restaurant review. This app invites the mobile user to take a picture of the food they are enjoying and share it with other users as a review. It’s a interesting app that I have been using for a couple of weeks now.
Foodspotting it uniquely mobile. If you like the food you are eating in a restaurant, you take a picture of the food with your iPhone. The photo is uploaded for others to see and becomes your review. When you open the app, you see the pictures from users from restaurants near you. I tried it out to mixed results. Oddly it got better the more I used it. The first time I used it to find lunch in downtown Seattle. I got images of foofie food and cocktails from Cafe Campagne. Love their food, but not what I need for a workday lunch. But when I tried the app on a lunch hour a few days later the app delivered. Some joints across the street I knew were good, and a couple of spots nearby I had not heard of. Discovering new food spots was fun.
I’ve tried the app in Portland and got good results. I checked Foodspotting on a recent trip to Dallas where I was staying near the airport, not an area known for good food. But again the app delivered. I found results for tacos, pizza and pho, which I admit surprised me in Dallas.
Like Locavore, this is an app worth using now and will only get better as more users join up. It has some weird parts that need to get worked out – the picture of a wood table on startup is a bit strange. After a couple of weeks of using the app I am still not sure what “Nom it” means. Weird features will get worked out, but Foodspotting is a great mobile foodie app because it helps you discover new food in a way that is only possible on mobile. These are the apps that Apple should be promoting. I like Nigella as much as the next guy, but there isn’t anything mobile about her app.
Check out the apps for foodies in iTunes, but don’t let Apple’s choices limit you. There are a ton of good apps for foodies in the iTunes store. Apple is just figuring it out.