I have been traveling more than usual this year to places in the United States and Europe. Some I have been to before and others I have not. Many of the trips are to places for only a few days and are set around meetings, conferences, or speaking engagements. I am often making plans at the last minute or having to make arrangements on the fly as ancillary meetings (not the prime reason I am there) get moved or cancelled. I am often looking for food, coffee, wifi, electronic stores, hardware stores, etc. in a location I am not completely familiar with. I am needing services of the local businessman, but I am not local.
The "Local Services"
You say, "there are many local services". Yes, there are Yahoo Local, Google Local, A9 Yellow Pages search, and other more local guides. But, none of them work on a mobile. There are Google SMS search and Mobile Yahoo, which has search that can tie to your local info, but if I am traveling I most likely have not save where I am looking for options.
Most modern phones know your location, they have to by law in the United States for emergency service calls. The phones do not provide easy access to that location software because the carriers providing the service do not want you to have it for free, they want somebody to pay for that information. If I call information they are not going to tell me where I am, nor the type of service or store I am seeking.
A Hack Finds "Where"
My current hack is to stand in front of a store, which I know the street name and I send the request for information about the place to Google SMS (ritual coffee. san francisco, ca) and I get one important piece of information back, the zip code. The zip code in the United States is the key to getting location information. There is nothing when driving (or actually riding as a passenger, because one never text messages while driving) or walking around that tells you the zip code (I have given up asking strangers on the street the zip code as it is more often than not incorrect). Once I have the zip code I can ask the mobile services for "coffee 94110" and get another place to get coffee and sit down because Ritual Coffee Roasters is utterly packed and already has seat vultures hovering.
Ministry of Silly Steps
Doing this little dance I get options, but it is a few steps that I should never have to take. The information most needed in a local search when mobile is location
Zip It, Zip, Z..
With the zip code I can dump that into my Mobile Yahoo! "new location" and get results. But, even because Yahoo! Mobile knows it is me (they offered me my stored locations (such as Home and Work)) it does not use that information to give me things I have reviewed and stored in Yahoo! Local. In the online version of Yahoo! Local I get reviews from people in my "community" (that really really needs to get a firm understanding of the granular social network), which is often helpful (if I know the person and can adjust my perception because I know how close that person's preferences are to mine on that subject). Sometimes I need an extension cord or an Apple Store (or a good substitution).
Elsewhere: Missing Even Partial Solutions
Additionally, this only works in the United States. The global local versions of Yahoo don't have fleshed out local services that are anything close to what is available in the United States and my "community" (as imperfect of an approach as it is at the moment) is still more helpful at filtering than nothing and I know I have many people in my "community" that have not only been to the same locations I am in, but have reviewed restaurants, local stores, etc. on the web and I want to be able to pull that information back in. Yes, this means the services need to grasp and embrace digital identity to make this work (or just build a social network capable address book that knows who my friend's identities are on various other services and social networking tools where this information may be sitting - not rocket science by any means). I heard some native language services were around, but those would not be fully helpful to me (I think I could get through it however), but if I tried a service that did not work it is not pointing me to one that does (now that would be insanely helpful and I would likely go to the kind service people for everything first as they would point me to just the right place every time).
Ya Beats Goo
Well at least Yahoo! understands there are places outside the United States. Google's services are not there, or any where on the mobile front it seems. In my last trip to Europe nobody knew that Google offered these services, which it seems they do not, in one of the most mobile use intensive cultures in the Western Hemisphere.
I know, enough. I agree. We need mobile information that works. WiFi is not here everywhere. Even if it were I am not foolish enough to pull out my laptop to try and get a signal and then get the information I need. I have a mobile device with the perfect capability to do just this. Actually there are more than double (if not triple - can not put my fingers on this info) the users with this capability on their mobile than laptop users in the United States (foolishly most laptops do not have locative hardware in them to ease this possibility if it was your last possibility). The technologies are here. Why are we not using them?