Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Gadling quiz – guess the skyline (international edition)

So, you think you know your way around the world? Think you’ve seen it all? Prove it, and take the Gadling skyline quiz. We’ll show you 10 skyline images from around the world, and if you really are made of what they make great world travelers out of, you’ll score at least 8 out of 10. Anything less and you really need to get back on a plane to see more of the globe.

Click read more to start the quiz.

Gadling quiz – can you guess the nationality?

Have you traveled enough to recognize 10 different nationalities? In today’s quiz, you’ll have to pick the right nationality for each of the photos.

There is a twist though – you only have 10 seconds to answer each question, and the longer you wait, the fewer points you’ll earn.

If you know your stuff, you should be able to score over 650 points. If you score under 300 points, then you should try cheating, or traveling more.

So, click the “read more” link to start the quiz, and don’t forget to leave your score in the comments!

What’s the Deal with Albanian Teddy Bears?

When researching an upcoming trip to Eastern Europe, I ran across an interesting thread in Lonely Planet’s travel forum, Thorn Tree, called “Albanian teddy bears.” It reads:

“Anyone know why Albanians hang teddy bears from the rooves [sic] of their houses? It seems to be all over the place!”

There were only two responses to the message, none of which had the answer. Both, however, shared conflicting personal experiences. “I was in Albania in May and didn’t see any teddy bears,” one response read. Another replied, “I was there also in May and June and teddies were all over the place and in every town or village i went to, although more in towns.”

So what’s the deal? I figured I’d throw the question out to Gadling readers since they’re so freakishly good at pinpointing the location of even the remotest destinations in our Where on Earth? feature. Surely someone out there knows the answer to one of life’s great mysteries: The Albanian Teddy Bear. And don’t call me Surely.

Update: That was quick! In the comments, Gadling reader AT found this nugget of information: “These things are called “dordolec” (pronounced “dordolets”) and are apparently to ward off the evil eye. There have been quite a number of anthropological studies of the evil eye, but none of those I have seen mention this custom, and I was curious to know whether it, like religion, had been suppressed by the Hoxha regime, and if there is anything similar in neighbouring countries.” A subsequnt Google search for “dordolec + evil eye” confirms this theory. Thanks, AT!

Test Your African Geography Knowledge with Statetris: Africa

Okay, we’ve got the original Testris-Geography mashup game called Statetris for the U.S., and then things got a bit tougher (for me) with the follow-up, Statetris: Europe. Now we’ve got new one: Statetris Africa. This one’s a doozy.

Africa is tough! I’m struggling to put countries like Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire in their correct places — and I was a Geography major in school! Problem is, even if you know where these countries are physically located, they may not be facing the correct way in the game. Just like in real Tetris, you’ve got to rotate the falling countries until they’re correctly orientated. [via]