In February, I reviewed the GayCities iPhone app. It wasn't the most positive review, but at the time, I said it was "worth a download" even with several major flaws and lackluster listings. I recently got an email request from the folks at GayCities to give the app another look since updating to the latest version (2.01 as of this writing.)
A couple weeks ago, while we were in New York City, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try out the app again in a "real world" type setting. We were looking for some places to check out near our hotel, so I fired up GayCities to see what could be found.
I am admittedly happy with most of the improvements. The app feels more polished and seems to function more smoothly than I remember. I still can't help but knock the user interface choices - those haven't changed much since the last version.
Details on the improvements and more of my impressions after the jump.
Second First Impressions
The first thing I noticed when I opened the app was that the maps, which I had so disliked before, were much the same. Now, however, there is a link to open the location in Google Maps, which is good since Google Maps can also give you directions for traveling by car, public transit or walking.
Of course, none of the blandness of the look and feel hasn't changed either. The powder blue and gray color scheme just doesn't work for me. It all seems to blend together into the muted look of the Indiana sky in winter. This, of course, doesn't affect the app's functionality, but UI design choices are a major component of iPhone app development and can affect the appeal of the app to its market.
On the other hand, I was very happy to find most of the bugs and difficulties I had in the previous version of the app had been addressed. No more weird screen artifacts when switching between screens.
The addition of a "Report Error/Mark Closed" button is much appreciated. So is the option to list places by distance from your current location. Another of my peeves with the last version, the lack of capability to submit reviews, has been addressed in this version as well.
There are also more categories of businesses, expanding from only Bars, Hotels and Restaurants to:
A Few Quibbles
Functionally speaking, this update is far and away better than the last time I reviewed GayCities. With that said, I still have a few quibbles that I hope will get addressed in future versions.
I still have some issues with the listings themselves. First, the amount of duplication is just unacceptable. I realize these are user submitted reviews, but either their system needs to be smart enough to detect duplication or they need to pay someone to cull the entries. Granted, a number of the duplicates I've found have listed the establishment in different categories, like as a bar and a restaurant, but I don't see why the same listing cannot appear in multiple categories.
The map is just not as functional as it could be. If several businesses are close together, the location icons will overlap. This makes it very difficult to tap all the icons for more details. An option here could be like Google maps does with a cluster of map points, which is to fan out the multiple points to make it easier to choose one.
Another problem with the map is the lack of a legend for the map icons. Many of them are obvious, but the "shopping bag" icon for Shops looked like a padlock to me at first. I still haven't figured out what the icon for Organizations is supposed to represent.
Strangely, not every business in the Browse list appears on the map. Neither Indianapolis bathhouse gets a pin on the map, but they both appear in the Browse list. Of the two organizations in the Browse list, one of them has a pin on the map while the other doesn't.
None of these issues make the app unusable, but they should definitely be addressed in future updates.
GayCities has really come into its own in this second version of the app. Most of the major irritations have been eliminated, which has made for a useful and handy app to have when you're looking for something to do.
In the next iteration, I'd like to see a better map feature and some scrutiny put into the listings. The app can be perfect, but if the data it provides doesn't inspire confidence, it will be difficult to find continued success.
GayCities is one of the few queer apps I've downloaded and kept on my iPhone. I'd recommend it to anyone away from home looking for LGBT friendly places of business. It has the most complete listings available, it's easy to use, and it's free. Despite its flaws, it's a good addition to your iPhone.