It’s no secret that Google is excited about Hotpot, the new website property that has replaced “Places” and (maybe, just maybe) seeks to dethrone sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. In approaching this new market, Google has two key advantages: 1) An existing database of information and feedback on the locations it’s detailing, and 2) Its access to ridiculously powerful cross-promotion opportunities.
It looks like one major area for cross-promotion will be Android phones, if the report on the Hotpot blog is any indicator. A new Hotpot widget from Google will automatically figure out what businesses you’re close to and allow you to rate them with just a few taps.
You likely suspected that Google had already produced a Hotpot application. What you may not have realized is that this widget came bundled with the most recent update to Google Maps. That’s right! In addition to giving you 3D capabilities and offline travel data, Maps for Mobile ninja’d in some Hotpot promotion.
You add the widget to your phone’s screen just as you would any other widget: tap and hold, select “widget,” then go down to the new “rate places” option. The widget automatically figures out your location by the most accurate location-finding feature enabled on your phone (GPS, cell tower triangulation, etc.) and creates a list of businesses near your area, sorted by distance. You just tap on the stars in the left section of the widget to leave your rating. If you’re the sort who likes to give more full reviews, you can even enter full-text feedback using the “say more” option.
While secretly adding features for other products may be a tad odd, it is entirely optional and doesn’t diminish any of the other Google Maps 5.0 functionality. For those who don’t want to Hotpot, it’s easy enough to ignore; for those who like the idea, widget away!