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    cjvitek's Avatar
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    Default Review: Lonely Planet London City Guide

    Lonely Planet: London City Guide, by Lonely Planet
    Currently $5.99, ***


    • Decent London guide
    • Include maps, “nearby” options, and descriptions


    • Doesn’t incorporate as many iPhone features and I would expect
    • Limited use “on the go”

    I am heading to London in about two months, so I thought I would take a look at some travel guide options available on the iPhone. I always knew the Lonely Planet name, so I thought I would try their guide. The Lonely Planet London City Guide provides a basic guide to the city of London, as well as some additional features such as GPS, but it doesn’t include as many features as I would have liked to see in a mobile city guide.

    To start with, the city guide include a number of “chapters” about various aspects of the city: night life, history (broken down into different eras), costs, festivals, parts of the city, etc. I have chapters in quotes because most sections are only a couple of screens long – not at all like you would see if a real book. If there is something mentioned in a section that is also included in the catalog (stores, restaurants, pubs, etc) you can tap the name to get a phone number, hours, location via public transport, and a brief description. If it is something like a museum, you also get the entrance fees. The restaurants also list an expected price range, although they don’t include any dress codes. From the description of the location, you can also tap on the map to see where it is on the map. They also have walking tours that list some recommended sites…but the walking tours don’t include a map!

    Back at the main table of contents, you can also tab the “nearby” tab, to find out places of interest near you – food, pubs, museums, etc. As with the chapters, you can tap on a name to get more information (phone number, costs, hours, etc). You can also activate the filters for nearby items, choosing lodging, shopping, entertainment, sights, and places to eat as options.

    At the main menu, you can also select the map icon to see am ap of London, with the points of interest (and same filters as the “nearby” tab). This will allow you to figure out where you are, and how you might want to get to someplace. Once again, tapping on a name brings you to the detailed listing.

    While these are some nice features, the app was lacking what I felt are some basic travel features, as well as some features that can take advantage of the iPhone functions. I already mentioned the actually lack of a “walking tour” map. It seems very straightforward to have a map SHOWING the walking tour (and using the GPS to tell you where you are on it).

    Along the same lines, the map feature didn’t have a “how to get there” option. Sure, you can see what is nearby, but if you want to find something on the other side of London, it doesn’t help you figure out the best route (or even the best public transport!). Speaking of public transport, the app didn’t include any sort of maps or information, beyond website. No map of the bus routes, no map of the underground, nothing like that at all.

    Lastly, there are some basic, easy to include travel options that would be beneficial – a currency converter, a clothing size converter. For guides to other cities (where English is not the native language) I wonder if they even include any sort of basic phrase book! The one things they did include – images – aren’t even associated with the city. They simply have a section called “images” to look at – nothing incorporated into the maps or descriptions of the locations.

    The pricing for the app is all over the place. It has been as low as free, as high at $15.99. Currently it is $5.99 (it was $15.99 when I bought it, when I found out I was going to London…figures). I don’t know if they are trying to zone in on a reasonable price, but the price has remained steady for about two or three months now.

    All in all, with the features of the iPhone, I would have thought this could be an absolutely killer app to use while travelling in a foreign city. Instead, it seems like they trimmed down the standard travel guide, incorporated some basic features but didn’t really do anything to help you travel with the iPhone while IN the city. For $5.99, I would say it is borderline worth the money (certainly not for more), but you might as well just by a paper guide, and use Google maps or something like that. Three out of five stars.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 

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