Location challenge: Localscope vs Where To?

There are many apps that tell you what’s around you or how to find various types of places. The very first and still one of the very few reviews I’ve done on the App Store is for one such app called Vicinity. I still like the title.

You can’t see my gushing review – I’ve just looked for it and it’s gone – and I’ll not give a link to Vicinity because by now you’d be wasting your time. It hasn’t been touched in a couple of years where some of its rivals are even now being iOS 8-ified.

There are two that I like so much I keep swapping between them. At any time, one will be on the front home screen of my iPhone but it’s 50/50 which it will be.

Call it 70/30 now.

Because I’ve just changed back and this time I think it’s going to stick.

But first, let me tell you the contestants so that you can ignore me and just go straight to getting them both yourself. In the green corner we have Where To? for iPhone and in the white corner we have Localscope. Both are very good. Both earn a place on my home screen – just never at the same time because when are you going to ask two different apps where the nearest theatre is?

When you’re testing them out, that’s when.

Both apps work in much the same way. You type in what you want to look for – supermarket, ATM, I don’t know, airport, bank, anything – and these apps show you the nearest ones in order of distance. Then when you’ve got that list, they can hand off directions to your Maps app or they can give you more details about the place.

So that’s four crucial things: 1) searching, 2) finding, 3) directions and 4) details. Let’s throw in 5) other bits too.


Both apps let you type in a specific keyword or pick from a list. With Where To? the app starts with a big circle containing broad types of categories like food or shopping. With Localscope you don’t get anything. Tap on the search box at the top and then you do, you get a list of categories. I think Localscope loses for being less immediately obvious but it also wins for how that list of categories becomes a history of what you’ve searched for.

You previous searches appear at the top, the categories are below. In my case, since I use it so much, the categories are way, way, way below. But they are there.

I most often search by specific name so this has appealed to me more than categories. Plus, Where To?’s categories are shown in the circle by icons. If you want, say, a hotel, do you tap on the shopping basket icon or the knife and fork one? Is it the Bafta-like drama and comedy mask meaning entertainment? Or the spanner meaning services?

Actually, hotels are under the icon of an aircraft, which stands for travel and transportation.

It makes sense but I regularly, regularly would stare at those icons and just have to go around all of them until I found it or did a general search. I ended up doing a general search a lot yet compared to Localscope, that felt like a bit of a pain. Where Localscope’s search is a box at the top, Where To?’s is a magnifying glass icon so it’s a tap there before you can start writing.

I can’t remember how Localscope looked before its iOS 7 incarnation so maybe they were more evenly matched before. And the reason for talking to you about all this today is that Where To? has just been updated to the iOS 7/8 look. It hasn’t changed or improved the magnifying glass search button nor has it made the icons any clearer to understand, but it has introduced a one-button Favourites option. Tap on that and you can ignore the icons circle entirely in favour of your own selection of broad terms like hotel.

2) Finding
I don’t know where Where To? gets its information from. I do know that Localscope gets its from Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google, Factual (whatever that is), Yelp, Wikipedia and YouTube. There’s possibly more, these are just the ones I’ve kept on my copy.

I know it uses all of these because that is a key feature. Search for something and it will return the nearest one – I’m guessing via the Google part – but wait a moment and it will also return details from all of these services. So you’ll see a great review of a hotel on Yelp or you’ll see a twitter warning that environmental health officers have just been spotted there and they don’t look happy.

No doubt, Localscope integrates with many services and Where To? doesn’t appear to. But it must get something from somewhere because Where To? does include a photograph of a venue if you tap in far enough from the top level list.

Localscope is very useful for giving you an idea of how popular and/or expensive a local hotel is.

But ultimately it loses for the unbreakable fact that its results aren’t as good as Where To?’s. I was once trying to work out whether I was better off walking to the BIrmingham Rep or waiting for a bus. I knew where the Rep was, it came down to a question of how far that is to walk. So I asked both Localscope and Where To? for theatres.

Both returned a lot of results but Localscope’s didn’t include the Rep where Where To’s did. The End.

Except searching for the words “Birmingham Rep” were poorer on both. Both got it but so far down the list that you’d give up. You’d imagine that an exact match on a search would make that top of the list but in both cases distance wins. On Localscope, trying this right now, that means it thinks I am more likely to be wanting something called DotComSecrets Birmingham.

On Where To? a specific search for “Birmingham Rep” must mean that I want to go to Birmingham first. I can’t fault its logic there. But it’s a big city.

So neither is as fantastic as you would hope but Where To? wins for including places you’re looking for. Mostly.

I found the trick with Localscope was to wait for a bit, let it go through all its sources and then you scroll through them all. If you know what you’re looking for then you may well spot it in there somewhere. You’re stuffed if you don’t know, though.

3) Directions
Localscope threw me at first and for quite a while because its option to get directions is far down the long lost of results. But once you know it’s there, it’s quick enough to get to it and it hands off the address details to your choice of whatever map applications you have.

It’s a similar story in Where To? The directions detail used to be more obvious than in Localscope but in the latest Where To? it’s an easy-to-miss button toward one side of an photograph of the venue.

4) Details

Where To? has a nice display of addresses, phone numbers, and links to websites. Localscope has all of that plus a weblink to a page of more information – which is rarely very useful.

In comparison, Where To? now pulls in a description of the place you’re looking for and shows you that on the page without you having to tap through to anywhere else for it.

Plus, I just searched for my nearest Apple Store and Where To? also displays its opening hours today. I would’ve sworn to you that I’d seen this on Localscope too but I’m looking at both right now and can’t see it.

5) Other bits
I prefer the look of Localscope and until about three hours ago when I bought the new version of Where To? I greatly preferred it. Where To? has been stuck in a wood and leather look for a long time and Localscope’s grasp of the iOS 7 design ethos is part of what convinced me I liked that newer look.

Now Where To? has been iOS 7-erised too. It’s not as overt and obvious as with Localscope but it looks a lot better.

Where To? just loses out a bit on the look and feel plus a lot for how its icon is of a great big Exit sign – and I therefore keep thinking that’s its name. Exit might even be a better name as searching for the words “Where To?” can get you a lot of matches before you find this one.

Both are very good. Localscope looks and feels better; Where To? has recently been radically revised and its appearance is greatly improved.

But for accuracy and usefulness of its lists of what’s around you, Where To? wins. That’s what I have today swapped back to.

For now.

Localscope costs £1.99 UK or $2.99 US and Where To? is £1.49 UK or £1.99 US.

Grab this now: Localscope for iPhone is free, briefly

It’s an app for finding places and services near you: I just used it to find the nearest supermarket in general and the other day to find a coffee shop in particular.

Stop reading, go getting. It’s free now, I don’t know when it will go back to it’s regular price. If you’re reading this late, go get it anyway. It’s worth it.


I alternate between Localscope and Where To? – whose name I have to fight to get right because its icon has the word Exit so prominently that I call it that.

Both do the same thing, both must surely use the same sources. But in general, I’ve found Where To? is more accurate yet Localscope is good and looks great. Where To? just looks to old.

But I’ve just been talking while you downloaded Localscope. Now you’ve got it, try it out.

Let’s turn to the phones

I swear to you that this is a thing. It really is. Just Google “iPhone home screen” and you will find literally half a dozen articles with people talking about what’s on their iPhone front page. I don’t think it’s such a big with Android users but then I wouldn’t be bothered looking. So. Maybe it’s Android too, maybe it’s everyone, maybe I’m not crazy. But I do have one thought about showing you my iPhone front screen.

Is there any better way of recommending software apps to you than showing what I actually use?

And since we’re talking about the front page, these must be the apps that I use the most. Yes. I use these to run my life. One caveat: I also have an iPad but that would be far too big a screengrab to show you. I also have a 27in iMac, but let’s be serious. You’d have to serialise a screengrab from that.

So here’s my iPhone and this is what it’s got on it that is practically worn out from the amount of use I put it all to:

iphone homescreen today


Some of this stuff you know, some of it just does what it says underneath. Phone, for instance. Music. Let’s just wallop through the biggies:

Top row, second from the left – Fantastical 2 for iPhone. I’ve already talked about that and also Mynd, way down there toward the bottom, one up from Music, in Three Calendars, No Waiting. I was testing out Fantastical 2 then and also Mynd, which I’d only just realised is also a calendar. (I thought it was about meetings. It is. It’s just more.) Time has moved on and you can see that Fantastical 2 has kept its space on my home screen so I must like it. Whereas Mynd – wait, Mynd is still there. Bugger. It’s very good when it’s very good and when I need it but, oddly, I haven’t needed it much. Despite having many meetings. I’m afraid Mynd may be on its way out. I’ll think about it and get back to you. But Fantastical 2, unreserved recommendation: get it here.

Second row from the top, first on the left – Pocket. Read something here on the phone in Safari or in my RSS reader, or on my iPad, or my Mac or someone else’s PC, anything and anywhere, and I can lob it off to Pocket. Pocket is not the first Read It Later service, but it is the first that I used consistently often to save things and also to later remember that I had them and finally read the things.  Pocket is free, by the way. Off you go.

Second row from the top, second on the left – OmniFocus 2 for iPhone. Need I say any more? Can I say any more? I can? Start reading here – and bring a mug of tea. Then go buy this version of OmniFocus for your iPhone. It’s been updated fairly recently and the iPad one hasn’t so I’m havering over whether to recommend that to you. Up to a couple of weeks ago I’d have said yes even though it’s not quite as whizzy as the iPhone one. The iPad version of OmniFocus has traditionally been the best of the three – but that third one, the Mac version, that’s zooming up. It used to be very hard to use, now a vastly easier yet still powerful one is in beta and I’m addicted to it. Right now, I think the Mac one is the best. Go to the Omni Group’s website and find out about all three.

Third row down, second from left – Drafts. I don’t use this remotely as much as I would expect and chiefly because that’s Evernote right next to it. I’ve now got muscle memory that if I want to write anything quickly, it goes in Evernote. Drafts is possibly a nicer writing experience and it is definitely more flexible. Anything you write in Evernote stays in Evernote and that’s great because it stays there in Evernote on your phone, your computer, your tablet and so on. Anything you write in Drafts stays in Drafts but with one tap can go almost anywhere else. Write something and send it from Drafts to OmniFocus or to a text message or to an email. Or, I’ve just this week found out, to Fantastical. I found it tricky to set up but now it works so smoothly that I wonder if it’s even working. All I definitely do with it at the moment is jot down ideas that it then automatically appends for me to a Story Ideas note in Evernote. Get Drafts here and Evernote there.

Fourth row down, first on the left – 1Password. Actually, see today’s The Blank Screen newsletter for more details of this and then go buy it while it’s on sale. If the sale is over by the time you catch this, go buy it anyway. I paid full price, I’m happy. And buy 1Password for iOS here.

Fourth row down, second from the left – Concise Oxford Dictionary. Not only the dictionary text but also an audio pronunciation guide for many words. Every word I’ve ever tried, actually, and I’ve had this app since about 2008. I use it a lot. I wish it were upgraded for iOS 7 or even just to the stretched out iPhone 5 that I use and I wish all sorts of things, but it’s a great dictionary. Unfortunately, it is sufficiently old that I don’t think you can get it anymore. You can get many similar versions but not quite the one I know, so I can’t recommend a particular one. But do have a look at them all, okay?

Fourth row down, third from the left – Awesome Clock. I use this as a bedside analogue clock. It’s very customisable but now I’ve found an arrangement of clock face and hands that I like, I like it a great deal. Unfortunately, it ain’t around. Not today, anyway. Vanished from the App Store.

Fourth row down, fourth from the left – XpenseTracker.  That fourth row sees some action, doesn’t it? I use this for recording all my expenses. Are you okay? Did you just faint with surprise? Someone, bring us hot towels and some whisky. And tell me how much that costs because I need to pop it into XpenseTracker

Fifth row down, first from the left – HulloMail. I used to be on O2 and got Visual Voicemail. (Whereby instead of dialling in for your messages and listening to eight spam calls before you finally get to one from your client and, wait, hang on, she said a number there, bugger, where’s my pencil, you just tap. Here’s a list of the calls you’ve missed and which left messages. Tap on the one you want to hear first, you hear it first. Missed a phone number or couldn’t quite catch a word? Scrub back and forth through the recording.) It is so good that I had no idea there were iPhones that didn’t have it. Until I left O2 for 3 and despite in all other ways being far better, it didn’t have Visual Voicemail. HulloMail brings it back. It brings it back with ads and I keep meaning to upgrade but it’s a subscription and I’m not certain I use it enough. Take a look at HulloMail here.

Fifth row down, second from left – Where To? I keep wanting to call this Exit. Actually, I keep calling it Exit. And I rotate between using this and Localscope: both are easy of finding out what’s near you. I love this kind of app and I pummel mine: the first App Store review I ever wrote was for one called Vicinity and I could not get over what a stunningly great and useful idea this is. Where’s the nearest bank? Where’s a pizza place? Tap, there it is. With business details. I can’t remember why I fell away from Vicinity but I regularly bounce between Where To? and Localscope. Where To? looks very old to me and I just don’t enjoy using it as much as I do Localscope, but it’s given me more accurate information somehow. And I also understand it: I find I have to keep thinking with Localscope about where a certain feature is. But here’s Where To? and here’s Localscope: do have a look at both, would you?

Last one. Fifth row down, third from the left, Reeder 2 for iOS. This is my RSS reader of choice and I have done an awful lot of choosing. Here’s what I wrote about it when a new version came out late last year. There’s now also a Mac version in beta, which I enthused about here. But just go buy the iPhone version.

I’m worn out from enthusing.

My iPhone home screen, like everybody else’s I presume, changes a lot. You can see I’m havering over a couple of these apps. But the rest, the ones that stay there, tend to stay for the very good reason that they are very good. If you want a recommended app, this is what I recommend.

I hope you find they are as good for you as they have been for me.