Location-Based Services: Make the Most of a GPS-Enabled Phone

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Grab a Bite

On the phone
With a ton of food and restaurant apps on the market, it's hard to find a service that sets itself apart. Foodspotting does just that. Instead of pointing you toward restaurants, Foodspotting focuses on dishes. Users capture photos of something tasty and share them with others, and the images are associated with the location of the restaurant. That way, other foodspotters can search the area for whatever dish tickles their fancy.

If you love a dish that has already been listed, you can give it a "nom" to signify its deliciousness. (The free Foodspotting app is available for iPhone.)

The local search-and-review site Yelp also has a mobile app, and although you can use Yelp to look up reviews on just about everything, in particular it's a fantastic resource for restaurants. You can see user reviews, price listings, and menu options for places right around the corner.

Zagat-to-Go allows you to find local restaurants that have earned the Zagat Survey seal of approval. You can search based on location, cuisine category, Zagat ratings, or cost. The app also keeps track of your recent locations to recommend restaurants in areas that you frequently visit.

Shop and Go

Location-based services can help you save a little money while you shop. They can point you toward places holding sales, give you localized coupons, or uncover the best deal on an item of interest.

Groupon features daily deals in several major cities, and the bargains can cover anything from food to services to entertainment. You can get the deal only if enough people join Groupon the day the deal is offered, providing an incentive for users to invite their friends. The mobile app gives you directions to spots where deals are featured (it's available at no cost for iPhone).

Postabon is another deals-based system, but instead of following a deal promoted by a vendor, users are responsible for posting bargains as they see them and notifying one another. Activating Postabon can find you sales as you move about town, from happy-hour specials to retail clearance sales. If you spot a sale that hasn't been posted, you can share it with everyone else. You can also search for deals based on your exact location. (The free Postabon app is available for iPhone.)

ShopSavvy tells you if you're paying a good price for a product.
If you're about to make a purchase but you want to ensure that you're getting the best deal possible, look into ShopSavvy. This app lets you use your phone's camera to snap a shot of the bar code to find prices for the item locally and online. If you see the item listed cheaper at a different store, the app will give you directions. (The free ShopSavvy app is available for Android and iPhone.)

Health and Safety

In case of a medical or family emergency, location-based applications can assist you in seeking appropriate help and care.

iMobile Care gives you on-the-spot information about medical situations, conditions, and emergencies. Pressing the app's Emergency Button dials 911, and while you're waiting for help to arrive you can find first-aid tips and instructions for scenarios such as choking, bites and stings, chest pains, and traumas.

The app works with the GPS feature of your phone so that you can see exactly where you are, or let other people know where you are in case you're lost. You can load it with your medical information, or even activate the SOS alarm for dire situations. (The iMobile Care app for iPhone is $1.99.)

Families with phone-equipped children might benefit from the Family Locator monitoring and tracking system. After setting up the software on your child's phone, you receive text-message notifications about a change in location, or you can view your child's location on Google Maps. This setup gives you slightly more parental security than Google Latitude does, and also prevents a child from disabling the service at will. (The Family Locator app for Android is $9.99.)

Privacy and Protection

Though mobile location-based services are for the most part fun and helpful, sharing your location can pose a threat if the information gets into the wrong hands. All of the aforementioned services offer customizable privacy settings to give you more control over what you share and who you share it with. Be wary of using these services from your own home, and think twice before making the cute girl or guy you met at the bar your friend on Loopt.

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