With coverage of 38 cities spanning six continents, Lonely Planet is now bringing its much-loved guidebooks to a digital platform with a new app, Guides (available to download on iOS and Android).
Overview: While it’s taken some time for the travel publishing company to go digital, it is well worth the wait as it has incorporated some of the best features of other destination-based apps. Some of the highlights include a «Near Me» feature, allowing users to find sights close to their location or near a certain landmark, as well as downloadable offline maps, and a bookmarking/save feature.
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Pros: Within the city guides, there’s an interactive map with See, Eat, Sleep, Shop, Drink, and Play categories as well as categorized interests like Animals, Free Stuff, and Gardens. When you click on an attraction or restaurant, you are brought to a new screen that includes a description, map, location, website, and additional information like menu prices, hours, and nearby sites. The app also provides an overview and budget section of a city, complete with glossy magazine-like photos, similar to the guidebooks, which have about a third overlap with the app—since the guidebooks are hundreds of pages, I’m assuming they’re going to continue to add items to the app’s destinations.
Cons: Since the app only has 38 destinations, it pales in comparison to other, more established apps with hundreds of destinations. The guides are very location specific though, and while it’s possible to search for things like «Brunch,» it only gave me three results when I searched over a broad area in Boston. However, if you search by one of the six main categories (See, Eat, Sleep, Shop, Drink, and Play), you will see the full list of places over any given area on the map.
I’m assuming they’ll be adding more inventory and tagging features to expand the search function, which would improve the user experience. Another improvement would be allowing users to add their own recommendations or pin places into their bookmarks. And, it would also be useful if the guides for cities in Asia had a character translation, which would be helpful when asking for directions or communicating with a driver.
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Right now the app has destination guides for Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Chicago, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Kyoto, Las Vegas, London, Madrid, Montreal, Moscow, New Orleans, New York City, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San Francisco, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Tokyo, Vancouver, Venice, Vienna, and Washington, DC., with more coming soon, and the ability to request a city and get notifications whenever a new one is added. Guides is available to download on iOS here.