Last year Yelp turned down a US$ 550 million dollar offer from Google, and today remains one of the few companies to have walked away from the famous, primary-colored clutches. Not to be outdone, it looks like Google's answer to the local and location craze is a mobile solution called Google Places. 

Going Places with Google

Google Places is the newest piece of the Google Maps for mobile puzzle. The feature tacks nearby places onto the usual offerings, honing in on  attractions, hotels, bars, restaurants, etc. A Places icon is also along for the ride, and will be included in the Android app launcher. Basically, Google just turned Places its own application:

google_places_ss.jpgGoogle Places

As you can see, 'Restaurants' is at the top of the list of places to go, which seemingly serves to compete directly with Yelp's app. And while reviews aren't a part of Google's deal, many eateries have been pulling critiques from other sources, such as Zagat, into their restaurant pages anyway. 

Clicking on one of these pages will yield directions, pricing and menu items, or a call option.

Check-ins to Follow?

Yelp recently added the popular check-in functionality to their mobile application. Google hasn't said whether or not they plan to add it as well, but, let's face it, they probably do. In fact, Foursquare is shopping for a way to monetize their vast amount of data, and word is they're in talks with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Should Google name the right number, the addition of Foursquare's LBS prowess to Google Maps would make Places a more than viable option. 

On the other hand, some experts are saying that location-based services aren't all they're cracked up to be. 

"Forrester finds that only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based mobile apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt," said Forrester analyst Melissa Parrish. "Only 1% update these services more than once per week. What's more, 84% of respondents said they are not familiar with such apps, leaving the vast majority of Americans online still in the dark about location-based apps, which have had the marketing world obsessing over them in recent months."

Which side of the fence you buy into is up to you, but if you're interested in check out Places, just search for 'Google Maps' in the Android Marketplace. If you're a business owner wanting to be found, head on over here