Because travel apps are a dime a dozen, half the battle of keeping your business trip or vacation well organized is knowing which apps not to install. And such is my recommendation for the iPhone app Rough Guides World Lens (free). Skip this armchair travel and exploration app and instead use Rough Guides’ full website. The app ends up sending you there anyhow.
The people at Rough Guides have long been renowned for their expertise in international travel, and this free app aims to take the best of their travel photos from around the world and indulge your wanderlust with eye candy and facts about far-flung places. It delivers on the first part, more or less (although the app isn’t formatted for iPhone 5, so screen real estate isn’t used to the fullest extent), but fails on the second because the moment you become interested in a highlighted place, the app pushes you to the Safari mobile browser to have a gander at Rough Guides’ website. More of that content should simply be streamed into the app itself.
The home screen drops you onto a page with tiles of enticing images that continuous refresh. Scroll through them, and you’ll find thumbnails of Machu Picchu, Tivoli fairground in Copenhagen, Joshua Tree National Park in California, the Moeraki Boulders of Otago in New Zealand, and much more. Click any image and a new page will load that provides a single paragraph description of the place shown. A “read more” button should deliver additional facts in the app, but instead pushes you out to the Rough Guides website in the mobile Safari browser. It’s a shame that the app doesn’t just pull this content in, as this would greatly increase the app’s value. No one wants an app that just sends them to a website.
Rough Guides World Lens doesn’t do a whole lot more than that, another downer when you consider all the great resources Rough Guides provides elsewhere. You can mark images you like as “favorites” for an in-app collection, save the image as your iPhone’s wallpaper, and share it via Facebook, Twitter, and email. You can try to look up sites using a search bar, although it’s a gamble whether they’re included, as the contents of the apps are only highlights from around and world and not a comprehensive global list. A map view lets you see just where those highlighted locations are geographically speaking. An icon of books brings up a screen of suggested Rough Guides books to purchase. Oh, and forgive me for nearly forgetting to mention that you can sign up for the Rough Guides email newsletter from here, too.
The problems with Rough Guides World Lens for iPhone are that it doesn’t contain that much content; it pushes you to open the full Rough Guides website in Safari too often; and it displays too much advertising for Rough Guides’ other products and services. There are outside ads, too, although to Rough Guides’ credit, they’re minimal and unobtrusive. I’d be much happier with an app that just gave them the Rough Guides experience right then and there, even if the app cost 99 cents or so.
So if you’re not going to install the free Rough Guides World Lens app for iPhone, what other travel exploration apps should you install instead? City Guides, Offline Maps (3.5 stars), also known as Stay.com’s mobile app, is a decent place to start for recommendations of what to see and do in various cities. TripAdvisor’s main app (free) contains useful suggestions alongside user reviews, and TripAdvisor City Guides (free) adds offline map and photo packs that you can download for specific cities that you’re planning to visit. All these options offer more content directly within the app than Rough Guides World Lens.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc