Dine-O-Matic review: Beautifully designed, highly focused random restaurant picker for iPhone

Dine-O-Matic for iPhone is a gorgeously rendered, single purpose app designed to do one thing, and do it very well -- randomly pick where you should go out to eat when can't make up your own mind.

Launch Dine-O-Matic, and you're asked to tell it your favorite restaurants (or let the handy GPS feature help you quickly locate them). When you're done, or anytime thereafter, tap the plate to get your pick and watch Dine-O-Matic spin up it's FTL (food type locator) and jumps you right to a random selection. Then you can call to make a reservation, get directions, or just grab your wallet and head out to eat. That's it. That's all. You're good to go.

With Dine-O-Matic, you can either find restaurants based on your current location, or search for specific places, or enter everything manually

If you want to constrain your choices, you can choose the dollar range -- between $ cheap and $$$ pricy, or any combination of those -- right below the spinner.

Once you get your pick you can call or get directions, via the Maps app, with just a tap. If you later want to edit your restaurant list, or add more restaurants, that's just a tap away as well. If a restaurant closes or falls out of your favor, you can swipe-to-delete it and remove it from the list.

You can edit, categorize, and even delete restaurants at any time in Dine-O-Matic

Unfortunately, because Maps pulls its data from Google, you're constrained by the quality of Google's results in your areas. That could be great, or it could be less than great. Mine were mixed. You can, however, easily edit restaurant data and even categorize your favorite places. (If only Google were that smart!)

Dine-O-Matic comes from the Icon Factory, the brilliant minds behind apps like Twitterrific, Frenzic, and Ramp Champ to name but a few. Dine-o-Matic exemplifies the style and simplicity that are Icon Factory trademarks, but it takes both to the extreme.

Originally a Mac OS X Dashboard widget, Dine-O-Matic works as an iPhone app but it's so simple, so single purpose, that it really re-opens the debate for widgets in iOS. Apple has added them to Siri and Notification Center but so far third-party apps can't hook into them, unless you're jailbroken.

That's a pity. Something like Dine-O-Matic would feel right at home there. Just pull down the Notification Center shade, or swipe to a widget screen, and get your pick.

Also, since this is fitness month at Mobile Nations, a fitting way to use Dine-O-Matic is to program in only healthy, smart choices for restaurants. Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring, and it doesn't have to be predictable. Leave your favorite dive in if you have to, and maybe you'll get lucky and get an extra cheat meal out of it, but make sure it's mostly clean, health-concious choices and you'll be that much closer to achevin

The good

  • Gorgeous design, excellent interface
  • Location awareness makes it convenient to add your favorite restaurants
  • Excellent integration with Phone and Maps
  • Can manually edit restaurant data

The bad

  • Initial location-based restaurant results and data limited by the accuracy of Google

The bottom line

Dine-O-Matic is a gorgeously rendered, frustration-saving app with a simple goal -- to randomly pick for you a place for you to eat from among your favorite restaurants. If you've ever had knock-down, drag-out fight -- or the opposite, a passive-aggressive, responsibility-abdicating argument -- with your friends, family, and loved ones over where to eat -- and I have -- letting a machine decide can be a welcome alternative. Heck, even if you're just too tired or indecisive to choose a place to grab some takeout, letting Dine-O-Matic do it is a godsend.

Note: Due to an editorial error an incomplete version of this review was briefly published earlier today. We apologize and regret any inconvenience this may have caused the Icon Factory or the readers.

$0.99 - Download now

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.