In a few weeks, OpenTable will be launching our upgraded 2.0 application for the iPhone. We’ve got a sneak peek at what this upgrade will mean for diners below. But, I thought it would be a great time share with our foodie and techie fans how we got here from there.
By “there,” I mean 2001, when the mobile Internet consisted of a handful of WAP-enabled sites with pokey, stripped-down interfaces. Few, if any, were useful, let alone transactional. At that time, OpenTable was still in the early stages of building its network of restaurants in major U.S. cities, and yet, the allure of the mobile web was already there. My predecessors put a toe in the water with the logic that to beat the old way of making restaurant reservations — the telephone — you had to fight fire with fire.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and we all know that the mobile web in 2001 wasn’t ready for prime time – the UI was ugly, the input method cumbersome, and the speed of mobile networks was laughable. Eventually, six long years later, most of these issues had been worked out, but there was still one item missing to make it a killer platform and Apple capitalized on it: location.
By offering location access for free, Apple allowed developers to offer users context. What if I could quickly find restaurants around me and find out if I could snag a table? How about last-minute reservations on the weekends when I am out with friends and away from my laptop? OpenTable seized the opportunity, and in November 2008, we released OpenTable for iPhone 1.0. This time, the mobile stars aligned, and, to date, we’ve seated half a million diners through our iPhone app.
But OpenTable isn’t stopping there. We’re enhancing the online reservation experience on the iPhone with a new version. With OpenTable for iPhone 2.0, you’ll be able to:
- Make 1,000-point restaurant reservations to earn free meals even faster.
- Modify reservations to change the date or party size. No more cancelling and hoping you can quickly rebook.
- Make “Special Requests for the Maitre ‘D” – such as, “Please seat me outside if a table is available,” or “We’ll be dining with a child and will require a high chair,” just as you can on OpenTable.com.
- Read restaurants reviews from recent OpenTable diners for reliable recommendations.
- Move the maps – Apple now supports moveable maps so you can see restaurants at any zoom level you like.
We hope you’ll enjoy this new app. Be on the lookout for it on your App Store application updates. And, for all of you non-iPhone smartphone users out there … Don’t worry! Your time is coming very soon, so stay tuned.
Josh Garnier is an OpenTable Product Manager.