Schmap launches city guide web app for iPhone and iPod Touch

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Schmap, publisher of over 200 free online travel guides, has opened access to their guides for iPhone and iPod Touch users by way of a remarkably nifty web application. The guides cover cities throughout the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and provide information on everything from the city’s historical background to the best places to get your drink on.

As portrayed in the image above, the web app utilizes the iPhone’s gyro sensors and a Safari specific Javascript function to determine how the device is currently oriented, and swaps between two display modes accordingly. If the device is oriented vertically, points of interest are displayed as a simple list; if horizontal, the points are overlaid on a map of the area. This allows the user to jump back and forth between modes without having to dig through menus, and is an ingenious way to make the most of the available screen real estate.

In addition to the city guides available for many major cities, Schmap is working on implementing a local search feature to provide similar functionality for cities they haven’t charted out yet. While local search results obviously won’t be as in-depth as the custom written city guide entries, it provides enough to get by: the business name, street address, and phone number. It did a good job of finding coffee shops in my area, even pointing out a few I’d somehow managed to ignore. I was unable to get the local search to recognize any zip codes, so you may need to type out the city’s name for the time being.

My only dislike with the service thus far is the tiny size of some of the buttons. I definitely don’t have sausage fingers, yet I constantly found myself tapping just outside of the detection areas. This was especially true of the arrows at the top and bottom of the interface.

Overall, Schmap for iPhone/iPod Touch is an incredibly handy application, especially while traveling or getting to know a new area. I’d expect to pay a few bucks a month for the service; that it’s free is just the mega delicious icing on the cake.

To check it out, just head over to http://www.schmap.com on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

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