Feature Article

April 29, 2013

The Mobile Travel App Industry Takes Flight

If you’re a smartphone person and you’ve gone traveling in foreign nations lately, you’ll know that mobile apps have revolutionized international travel. While 10 years ago, foreign travelers spent a lot of time standing helplessly on street corners with paper maps, language dictionaries and incomprehensible maps of foreign transit systems, today, most solutions to these problems are in the palm of travelers’ hands.

Some of the mobile apps that have helped make this transition include:

Apps that translate signs: Point your smart phone at a sign, take a photo and certain apps can “read” and translate the signs for you. Free apps such as Word Lens can translate signs written in Spanish or French into English and those written in English into Spanish or French.

Instant spoken language translation: Since your smartphone has a microphone, it can “hear” and translate speech instantly. Apps like Vocre from myLanguage provide viewers with a split-screen, table-top mode that will facilitate translated conversations. “You place the phone between you and another person and tap the screen to have it hear you," Damien Dalli, myLanguage chief product officer, told msnbc.com. Google Translate, of course, can quickly get you through menus, traffic signs, newspaper headlines and other translations. Jibbigo offers speech-to-speech translation in nine language pairs, including Chinese-English.

Transit apps: Many international transit systems such as airports, railways and urban mass transit offer apps for foreign travelers. In your own language, you can receive airport-specific tips such as how to buy transport tickets or how to ensure you are buying services from an authorized taxi. (Find a list of them here at Computerworld.)

Tourist attraction apps: Standing in front of a church in Italy? There are a multitude of apps that can provide you with audio commentary about major tourist attractions. Travel expert Rick Steeves offers a variety of apps of this type.

In addition to these apps, today’s mobile apps for airline travel can make it a lot easier to confirm flights, change seats, upgrade or even search for seats on different flights without the agony of waiting for a call center agent. Hotel apps can help travelers find beds, and restaurant apps can make it easy to book a table and read reviews. GPS-based map solutions can help with driving or walking directions. (Of course, all this depends on ensuring that your smart phone will have data access in a foreign nation.)

Travel apps are big business today. A recent report from PhoCusWright estimated that the U.S. mobile travel market could exceed $8 billion in value in 2013 and reach $10 billion globally. Part of the increase will be driven by greater opportunities in location-based mobile advertising, directing travelers to restaurants, cafes, shops and other services.

What all this means, of course, is that you can dump your dictionaries, your maps, your hotel brochures and your incomprehensible subway timetables. Just be sure to bring the right type of voltage converter so you can actually charge your phone.

Edited by Alisen Downey

comments powered by Disqus

FOLLOW MobilityTechzone

Subscribe to MobilityTechzone eNews

MobilityTechzone eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the Wireless industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter