May 1, 2012 at 8:19 AM ET
Tired of flipping through the pages of that dog-eared guidebook? The folks at Frommer’s suggest you tap, click or flick instead.
On Tuesday, the longtime guidebook publisher unveiled a new line of digital travel guides that take advantage of the touchscreen capabilities of the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the company’s Day by Day print series, the initial launch covers seven destinations and is designed to serve as a combination pre-trip planner, daily guide and post-trip journal and photo album.
“There are many, many different ways of interacting with the content,” said Ensley Eikenburg, associate publisher. “It can take you from thinking about a destination to giving you real, on-the-ground information to providing a place to store the memories of your trip.”
Unlike the company’s traditional guidebooks, the series takes an itinerary-based approach — one or two days in Los Angeles, one or two weeks in Spain, etc. — and augments it with interactive maps, slideshows of destination highlights and even five-day weather forecasts.
You can also bookmark pages, make journal entries and tap on approximately 1,000 links, both internal and external, to explore hotels, restaurants and other items of interest. And for those who have both an iPad and an iPhone (or iPod touch), the purchase price ($9.99–$14.99) includes access to the guide on both devices.
“The iPad is great for hanging out in your hotel room and planning your day,” said Eikenburg, “but when you’re out exploring, you can whip out your phone and follow your itinerary.”
Impressive features aside, the Day by Day series is not the first interactive, tablet-friendly travel guide out there. In 2010, Lonely Planet unveiled five iPad-based guides; today, the company offers more than 150 iPad-compatible titles, including destination guides, translation apps and travel-related games.
Together, the competing products are indicative of how well suited tablets are to travel. “People want to be dynamic when they travel,” said Jeff Orr, group director, consumer research, for ABI Research. “Not just in plotting their course but also in interacting with what’s around them. And with the on-screen real estate, you can display a lot more information than you can on a smartphone.”
They’re not, however, without their caveats, says Orr: “The catch today is that media tablets are not truly mobile devices; they tend to be used in and around the home.”
As evidence, he said consumers opt for devices capable of Wi-Fi connectivity much more than those with 3G and 4G capabilities. In fact, Orr said, in 2011, 73 percent of tablets shipped were Wi-Fi exclusive, up from 60 percent in 2010. Wi-Fi devices are generally less expensive, of course, but the numbers also suggest that people are willing to forgo Internet access during their daily rounds.
Either way, “You can’t assume users are always going to be in a 3G or 4G or always-on [Wi-Fi] environment,” he told msnbc.com.
Fortunately, Frommer’s and Inkling, the company’s platform developer, have addressed that issue by making much of the Day by Day content available offline, meaning travelers can still access most of its features without Internet access. That’s not a problem for those with iPhones, although as anyone who has fired up an iPhone overseas will attest, roaming charges can add up blazingly fast.
Which, of course, raises the contrarian point: You can flip through that old, printed travel guide anytime, anywhere and for however long you want and you’ll never get dinged for it.
Available through iTunes and the Inkling website, current Day by Day guides cover Alaska, California, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, Japan and Spain.
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.