Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

Nearly 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.

The House At..

You really got to love Wallpaper* for keeping us tuned into design drenched destinations. After playing catch up and reviewing some of their recommendations I decided to point artists and lovers of rural retreats to this beautiful creation. Simply called the House At, the so-called bucolic bolthole was a two-year project in the making designed as a place for rest, retreat and rustication. The once ramshackle farmhouse is located in France at Hautefage and this could very well be a bad assumption on my part, but as amazing as it seems for an artist’s retreat I’m thinking it won’t fall in the price range of starving artists like me. I couldn’t find price quotes on their site, but it sounds out-of-sight.

In the attic you’ll find a couple of Ueli Berger Sofas, the five bedrooms are bare brick with white tile (only some walls are lined with Eley Kishimoto wallpaper) and service is dictated by the guest. If you wish to make a dash for the French market you are welcome to do so or you may want to have someone do both the shopping and cooking. I can give this place no justice here. Perhaps after a week-long holiday there myself I’ll have more to say, but in the meantime highly interested parties should invest some time on the House At site. Go directly to the gallery.

Wallpaper* City Guides

Just when you start to sleep on Wallpaper* they go and make their debut in the publishing world with these nice little City Guides. Their reason being, after 10 years in the game uncovering the best new design and urban travel spots globally, packaging that decade of experience into well-thought out yet simple guide books was only obviously. They make it clear that the traveler’s time is as important as their own and they don’t waste it chucking in massive quantities. It’s about quality and they very best. The first 20 were published this past September and another 20 will be published every six months after that. Current titles include Mexico City, Los Angeles, NYC, Madrid, Bangkok and Stockholm to name only a few.

The books can be purchased at Phaidon. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Stay tuned for the rest in 2007!

Sala Rumm

Been a while since I visited Wallpaper* online and nothing’s really changed. Like every issue they point us lesser-inclined design persons to chic, sleek, modern and trendy interiors located around the globe. This one seen here is called Sala Rumm out of Lanzarote and was the design creation of Madrid’s Tomás Alia. Get your fix of exotic tea while lounging in this hip looking bar. Quite frankly, that’s a whole lot of magenta for one room, but once the crowd moves in I’m sure it’s a lot softer on the eyes.

See Wallpaper for additional details.