UpNext 3D NYC

Our Review by Bonnie Eisenman on May 20th, 2009
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: INCREDIBLE
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Think of UpNext as a mash-up between a 3D version of Google Maps and Yelp, but it's only for NYC. Darn! It also displays subway routes, lets you bookmark locations, and more. If you're going to be in New York, this is definitely a utility worth looking at

Developer: UpNext
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Depth of Information [rating:5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:4/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Re-use Value [rating:4/5]

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Think of UpNext as a Google Maps/Yelp mash-up. Sounds like fun, yeah? Now throw in bucketloads of additional features, and you've got UpNext.

When you start the app, you're presented with a view of Manhattan. The different districts are color-coded: Midtown West, Midtown East, Upper East Side, Chinatown, etc. At first, it looks like any other map. And then you start playing around with it. There's a subway button you can tap to show an overlay of subway routes, and it'll even tell you the trains passing through. Searching by address or business name? Not a problem. You can pinch and zoom with total fluidity, but when you zoom in far enough, the colored blocks separate into individual 3D buildings. That's where things begin to get interesting.

Each individual building has information stored on it. For example, tap on a building—any building!—and you'll see an average star rating, reviews, a photo, the address, phone number, and website. Some buildings don't have such information available, of course (think apartment buildings and relatively unknown shops) but there are tons of restaurants in the database. Initially, I was skeptical of the reviews—did UpNext have a large enough community?—but the app pulls reviews from editorial sources (think the New York Times) as well as from sites like Yelp.

One of the more powerful features is the category view. Use the categories (Dining, Recreation, Shopping, and Nightlife; each has appropriate sub-categories) to find nearby restaurants or shopping centers, or just to browse. Within the categories view, click "see all" and the map zooms out to show you the entirety of Manhattan, with each result highlighted with a glowing dot. You can then pan around the map until you find something closest to you, or you can just look for an area with a concentration of, say, Indian cuisine.

If you find a building you'd like to visit later, you can bookmark it—or add it to your favorites. Either way, you'll be able to find it again. I used Facebook Connect to store my data, though you can also create an UpNext account. (Um...why?) You can also add "notes" and reviews, or use the star-based rating system to let others know what you think.

If you already know where you want to go, you can use the search feature to find a specific address or a business, which is handy if you don't quite know your way around. One problem: there's no "Did you mean...?" feature, so you have to be precise. For example, there's this excellent hole-in-the-wall Jewish restaurant called "Sammy's Roumanian." I typed in "Romanian," forgetting the "u." No results! It would be rather nice if UpNext would make allowances for human error.

And there's yet another feature packed in here. The feed button, located in the bottom-right, brings up three options: Just Opened, Latest Reviews, or Recent Favorites. These feeds are live-updating lists based on what other UpNext users are doings (well, except for Just Opened, which is a self-explanatory list). It's a good way to discover a random business, I guess.

Now, in terms of integration with other social network services, UpNext is on the ball. I already mentioned its implementation of Facebook Connect. You can also post your location to your Facebook status, tweet out your location, publish reviews and other activities to your Facebook feed, and add photos to venues in their database.

All right. So those are all of UpNext's features. Most of them require some form of internet connection, though the map remains even when you're not connected (there's no data on individual buildings, but you can look at them). Now, as for the downsides...well, to be honest, there aren't many. Battery drain is an issue, I'd imagine. There's no option to send a private email out to your friends informing them of your location either, which could be more useful than a public tweet. And I'd like a more practical "see all" option, where UpNext would display a text-based list with venue names, ratings, and maybe a short description, instead of just showing you the pretty lights on the map.

But all in all, UpNext is a slickly packaged super-powered map of Manhattan, and if you've got a trip coming up, you'd do well to invest the $3 into this app. Heck, I imagine that even locals could benefit. I'd like to see future additions to the UpNext library: UpNext 3D San Francisico, UpNext 3D Washington DC...why not? At three dollars, this is worth far more than an easy-to-lose, vague tourist's map.

The developer's video below gives you a walkthrough with all of the features.

[youtube KgYNUdwYZRE]

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