Not everyone can read a map. Sad but true. Fortunately, with the slow, steady rise of augmented reality, not everyone has to. Whereas in location apps of old, one poured over 2-dimensional representations of city streets while some bloke nicked your bag, AR allows us to find our headings by holding our phones straight out in front of us and accidentally hitting those would-be thieves in the head instead. So, if you're looking for a place to go and you'd rather be the assaulter than the robee, then this is the app for you.
Lonely Planet London Compass
- Android Market
You might think that you've seen this Lonely Planet app before on your iPhone or BlackBerry, but you'd be wrong. This is not merely a city travel guide but one of a series of Compass editions as put together by the people behind Wikitude on behalf of the long running travel company. It's only out on Android and there's 26 to choose from with the likes of Miami, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Paris, Prague, Rome, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Vancouver, Boston, Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC represented to name, well, all of them actually.
The Compass guides contain all the information you'd associate with a Lonely Planet app including eats, drinks, sights, hotels, shops and such as well as all you'd need to know about the history, weather, money and culture, and that's all presented in a very phone-screen friendly and smooth fashion. What adds the edge though, are the AR credentials with which anyone familiar with this area of technology will understand right away.
If you're standing on a street and looking for some food, for example, you just hit the Eats category and then hold your handset up in front of you and look at the world on your screen through your phone's camera. Superimposed on top will be little flags of all the restaurants and cafes that the app has in its database and they'll be placed in their real locations relative to where you are. So, the idea is that you can navigate towards them by keeping their flag in front of you as you go.
Each little flag gives you the info of how far away your destination is and more about the venue itself if you actually click on it. There's also quite a tidy little radar on the bottom corner of the AR screen showing you where all the locations are relative to you and one another. Naturally, there's all sorts of more in-depth search parameters you can add in too. Of course, if you find that's not for you, there is always a standard, old, 90s, boring, 2D, map view as well.
On the whole, it's a very tidy bit of software which you'd expect for the outlay. The only trouble is that the AR trickery needs GPS which itself uses data. In other words, you're going to pay for roaming if you're abroad which, let's face it, you probably will be. That said, get a decent overseas bolt-on and you're laughing.
What other travel apps do you use and recommend, and is there something that you think we should feature on Pocket-lint's AOTD? Let us know in the comments below.