Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: VegOut Application for iPhone and iPod touch

As I mentioned previously, I was given a promo code to try out a brand new vegan app for the iPhone and iPod touch.

The name VegOut brings back fond memories for me. Veg Out was a great vegetarian restaurant in Brisbane, Australia. (I lived in Queensland, Australia for six months.) Anyway, it makes me think of their amazing sweet potato fries. They're no longer open, though.

Anyway, on to the review...

Starting up the VegOut app

When first loading the VegOut app, it attempts to use your current location. I received the following error message: Your location could not be determined. I was bummed but I don't blame the app, as other apps on my iPod touch (such as Google Maps) are unable to find my current location. I guess my iPod doesn't know where Stratford, Prince Edward Island is.

Because VegOut couldn't find my current location I was prompted to manually add my location in Settings. I clicked on Settings and input my address. It worked! The three (yes, only three) results in HappyCow in Charlottetown were displayed. The results were listed by proximity to me and were complete with ratings, a label of Vegan, Vegetarian, or Veg Friendly, and the distance to each.

I was impressed and decided to go back to the Settings menu to play around some more.

Settings for the VegOut app

Here are all the settings you can configure:
  • Location: You can choose to use your current location or manually specify a location.

  • Distance: You're able to adjust the range to search in from your location.

  • Sort by: You can sort by Distance, Rating (average user rating on HappyCow), or Alphabetical.

  • Filter by diet: You can filter by diet to display Vegan, Vegetarian, or Veg Friendly businesses (or any combination thereof).

Information displayed for a business

If you click on a business in your search results you are shown the following information:
  • Phone

  • Type of food

  • Address: Clicking on the address will display the business on a map. You can then easily get directions to the destination.

  • Website: Clicking on the URL will bring up the website for the business. The program keeps a small bar at the bottom to allow you to easily close the window and go back to where you were in the app.

  • Price

  • Details: Clicking here will take you to the entry on HappyCow's website, where you can view user reviews.

Problems encountered using the VegOut app

  1. Current Location: As I mentioned above, the application did not find my current location. However, I think that's a bigger issue with the iPod touch. For some reason it doesn't find me here on Prince Edward Island. I'll be curious to see how well it works when I'm back in DC next month. I'm assuming it'll work much better.

  2. Maps: When pulling a business up on a map, I wasn't entirely clear on how to get back to the app. The app didn't keep a bar present like it did when I clicked on Details to load a website. The only way I could figure out to get back to the app was to go to my home screen on the iPod and load the app again, which took me back to the app's main screen. Maybe I'm missing something. If not, I'd suggest adding this functionality in the next version.

Questions about the VegOut app

  1. Does the app automatically pull new data from HappyCow if/when the HappyCow website is updated? For example, if a new vegan restaurant opens in Washington, DC and is added to HappyCow will that appear in the app right away?

In summary

I love the VegOut application. The only thing I could find that I didn't like was the fact that you can't easily get back to the app once you load a business on a Google Map. If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch I highly recommend downloading it. It's $4.99 and worth every penny. I keep thinking of how useful this app is going to be when I'm traveling.

For more information, you can visit the VegOut application's website or download the VegOut app from iTunes.

(Image courtesy of the VegOut application's website)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vegan App for iPhone and iPod touch

First let me apologize for not blogging in quite a while. It's lame. I've been dealing with a lot in my life recently. Anyway, I want to get back to my blog. I really enjoy interacting with all of you.

My wife gave me a very early birthday present last night (she couldn't wait until June). I got an iPod touch! I've only had it for a day and I already love it. It was actually strange timing that right after I was given my new iPod touch I received an email from Champ Bennett regarding VegOut, a new application he wrote for the iPhone and iPod touch. Here is the press release from the email he sent me:

Brooklyn, NY - Feb 20, 2009 -- Brooklyn musician and freelance software developer, Champ Bennett, has partnered with to bring the largest source of vegan/vegetarian restaurant listings to the iPhone. The idea came to him after having the hardest time finding a good place to eat while touring in Europe in mid-2008. Upon returning back to the States, he promptly got in touch with HappyCow to see if they would be interested in a partnership. HappyCow agreed and development started.

Upon completion of the app, Bennett wrote to Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple, Inc. and well-known vegan) to inform him of the application. "I couldn't think of a better candidate to beta test the app", Bennett said. "I wrote to him, and days later he actually wrote back asking when he could try it out! I responded asking for his UUID so I could build him a beta application that he could run on his iPhone. The next day he announced his hiatus from Apple and I never heard back again. Oh, well."

As of today, version 1.1 of the app is on Apple's AppStore. The functionality is simple: it finds vegetarian restaurants near your location or a custom location; however, there are plans in the future to extend the functionality to include vegetarian and vegan recipes (Bennett's wife is a graduate of the Chef's Training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and works at the popular Manhattan raw-food restaurant, Pure Food and Wine).

Champ even provided me with a promo code to download the app for free. I've successfully downloaded the app and transferred it to my iPod touch. I'm going to play around with it.

Stay tuned because an evaluation of VegOut is forthcoming.