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Thoughts on developing a mobile travel answers app for a mobile device

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 12 May 2010 | Views [778]

I don't know about you, but I'm almost always planning my next trip(s) and this is usually when I'm sat at my desk in the office, sat on the couch with my iPad at home and even from the back of the bus on a bumpy road when you have plenty of time but no internet connection. As such, travel planning for me is part research and part dreaming of what maybe possible? Is it really possible to travel overland from Hanoi into China and if so, who has done it and what can I learn from them.

There are some obvious candidates for where you might get this knowledge: Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree for example. But to do it this way I have to go there, search through it all, dig down to where I might post it, post my question AND then remember to come back to see if I've got an appropriate answer. I don't know about you but I simply don't have the time.

Bouncing along in hired taxi's in Egypt early in 2010, I was testing a variety of mobile travel apps on my various mobile devices. Almost all assumed I already had an internet connection and simply failed when launched. Travel, as a category, presents some unique challenges for mobile development. It's not like I'm at home and connected all the time - something developers singularly fail to understand.

Data when you travel is still currently a huge hurdle. The cost of data on Global Roaming is a joke and pre-paid SIM's on arrival are a fractured market and far from unreliable.

The default backup for the moment at least is WiFi access, but this is intermittent at best and can be unbelievably slow since some little hotel or guest has shares their access across their business and guests. It's so patchy: major cities and hotels are usually pretty good, Bali was unbelievably slow but Cambodia was pretty fast.

So the upshot of my experiments on my thinking is that any app that we develop has to work offline, has to be able to synchronise when you eventually get online, and you have to be able to queue  things offline that eventually get posted online once you have a connection. A hat tip to Evernote.com here for their excellent work in demonstrating this.

Why develop an app at all? Well, the problem with web sites is that people have to remember to go back there and when you are travelling you can't have someone sign in from an internet cafe for example and leave them signed in, which means travellers have to remember yet another damn login. With an app on your phone, once signed in you can just use it and personalise as the phone already handles the security. 

Additionally, for some time now we've been considering what exactly it actually means to BE a World Nomad, as this should no longer simply revolve around the web site, and a mobile app would allow us to acquire new members from people who had never ever even visited the web site.

So which platform and which device to we start with? We'll keep you posted. Whatever we develop - we hope you'll enjoy it.

Tags: development, innovation, ipad, iphone, mobile

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