Google Places with Hotpot Gives iPhone Recommendations

Google has brought its Google Places app with Hotpot local recommendations to Apple's iPhone. The move is geared to boost Google's social personality vis a vis Facebook.

Google's Android operating system might feel a pinch when Verizon's iPhone 4 hits the market, but that doesn't mean the company can't continue to capitalize on ads associated with Apple's popular smartphone.

Google Jan. 12 launched a version of its Google Places application, which includes the company's new Hotpot recommendation engine for the iPhone.

The search engine in November began offering Hotpot-which surfaces friend recommendations about local businesses-on Google Maps for Android 4.7.

Hotpot lets users rate, write and publish reviews about restaurants, coffee shops and other establishments from their smartphones. Hotpot users will also now see a stream listing the most recent rating and review activity by their Hotpot friends when they search Google Maps.

Combined with Places-which lets users search for local businesses and personalize results based on ratings-Hotpot provides some social glue to keep users and their friends sticking around in Google instead of going to Facebook to interact.

With the new Google Places app for the iPhone, Google will gain a nice, additional entry point for Hotpot.

Places with Hotpot lets iPhone users rate a place while they're there by launching the app and hitting "Rate now." The app uses the GPS in the iPhone to guess a user's current place and allow them to post a Hotpot review from their iPhone.

It's not unlike what Foursquare users do when they check into a place from their mobile phone and add tips and comments. However, Google isn't done with the data users enter into their iPhones at the point.

Based on the user ratings, Google can deliver more personally tailored recommendations via Hotpot in Places on subsequent visits.

Google, which has been building steam for Hotpot with local businesses in Portland, Ore., is also encouraging Android and iPhone Places users to visit Hotpot from their desktop computer to populate their app with, as well as rate places with which they're already familiar.

"Once you've added friends, you'll find your results seasoned, not just with reviews from around the Web and recommendations based on your own personal taste, but also with your friends' opinions too," wrote Google Hotpot engineer Greg Blevins in a blog post.

Hotpot, which falls under the purview of new Google Local Products head Marissa Mayer, is clearly one of several social layers Google is focusing on in 2011. If popular enough, it could provide a solid base for Google's contextual discovery effort.