How Apple can catch up to Google ratings and Yelp reviews overnight

January 20, 2015

Yelp. The word is synonymous with ratings. Although Yelp is very powerful and has millions of reviews, they have not gained my trust. There are tales of paid Yelp reviews, compromised Yelp reviews, even extortion. To use Yelp, I need to stop everything I am doing, quit my current app, open up the Yelp app and search for the name of the location of interest. This is one of two common scenarios for me. Once there, I need to sift through the ratings and see if there are any trustworthy ones. This is the big pain point and is why I seldom use Yelp. There has to be a better solution…

Let's do it better

So how can this experience be better? The ideal service would allow a user to see ratings from friends, family, as well as enthusiasts of interest to a user (similar to Twitter). These ratings need to present themselves in an intelligent context and should not require you to quit your current workflow to open a standalone app. This app needs to integrate with your conversations in real time. So how can we do this and who can pull off such a feat?

Apple (and possibly Facebook) are the companies most poised to launch a compelling review system described above. Apple, however, has a bigger incentive and bigger advantage in implementing such a concept using iMessages. IMessages is baked into the operating system and is available out of the box. Any new feature added to iMessages would reach millions of people overnight and instant adoption. iMessages knows the people that are important to you and understands the context / conversation in which it resides.


The mockups below show a really primitive rendition of the conceived rating system. The user interface and experience are quite simple. When a message is received containing a Point of interest (POI), your iPhone recognizes it is and allows you to click on it, thus opening up Apple Maps (similar to clicking on an address in iMessages). Additionally, when a POI is suggested, one of three additional things can happen:

  1. POI is not previously rated by you or contacts: iMessages prompts you to rate the location. [left]
  2. POI is not previously rated by you but rated by contacts: iMessages subtly shades the average rating given by your contacts and allows you to rate the location. [middle]
  3. POI is previously rated by you: iMessages reminds you how you rated the location. [right]


iMessages can also provide further insight while communicating with a single person or group. Ratings would be shared within the given context and could alert you when making a bad or good recommendation.

Other exciting implications

The ability to recommend POI’s by comparing the location of all parties involved and their respective ratings is even more exciting. Imagine a button you could press while in an iMessage chat that would link you to a list of POI’s highly rated by both parties. Along with that, you could also have a map that displays all POIs rated positively between those among the chat thread.

While Facebook could implement a similar type of rating system, Facebook’s rating system of Likes is an absolute one that cannot differentiate between something that is liked and something that is liked a lot, this hindering the value proposition and usefulness especially in large groups.


Implementing such a feature would be a game changer for iMessage users while also serving as a strategic advantage for Apple. Rating data is essential for pushing the next generation of hardware / software and Apple has none. Devices can only get smarter if they know what you like and these ratings are one way to achieve that while not relying on third party services. Just as Apple did with Apple Maps, Apple needs to begin acquiring it’s own set of ratings and this is the best way to quickly get users on board and catch up to Yelp reviews and Google ratings.