Taking advantage of the fact that a lot of people will be travelling during the next week and a half — and assuming that at least some of them are not organized enough to have booked their accommodation yet — Airbnb today released a new version of its iOS mobile app with some significant updates. To better target weary travellers and innkeepers this holiday season and beyond, Airbnb is adding support for 18 more languages; the ability to add reviews; and calendar access.
All the updates bring the iOS app further in line with the company’s website, and pave the way for Airbnb adding in more interactive features in the future — possibly making use of its recent acquisition of Localmind, which allows users to post questions about specific locations that then get answered by local experts.
The enhanced features also point to how popular the iOS app is already, and to how Airbnb wants to capitalize on that. The company tells me that the iOS app has already had 1.8 million downloads to date, with an 80% increase over the past three months.
Some 26% of Airbnb’s overall traffic at the moment comes from mobile devices (compared to only 12% at this time last year), and it’s clearly a central part of how the company hopes to entice more people to list properties and book them: it says that at the moment the response time for messages sent between hosts and guest is three times faster when the Airbnb mobile apps are used — that’s across iOS, mobile web and Android combined.
But if you’re an Android user looking for similar upgrades, you’re out of luck for now. Airbnb will not give a date for when it will be extending these updates to the Android platform: “We are always working on ways to improve our overall mobile experience, but we don’t have an Android update to share at this time,” a spokesperson noted in an email.
The 18 new languages — including Malay, Turkish and Chinese — now bring the total number supported by the app up to 27. They are a sign of how the company continues to ramp up its international profile, not an insignificant effort because of the various clones — two European competitors for example are 9Flats and the Rocket Internet-backed Wimdu — that are emerging to meet demand. There is still some way to go in getting a fully-international operation up and running. Airbnb says that the 200,000 properties on its books now range across 30,000 cities in 192 countries.
Adding in the ability to read and write reviews, meanwhile, seems like table stakes and to be honest, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long to incorporate them, especially since they’ve proved fairly central to the company’s business model: “Reviews are foundational to creating trust on Airbnb and we’ve seen these become increasingly important to driving repeat traffic to hosts,” the company says.
The Calendar addition, lastly, is really a move to improve Airbnb’s dialog with hosts. The idea here is that hosts will now be able to check and update availability for a property directly from their mobile devices, which will make it easier for them to post and list days on the service.
We’ve contacted Airbnb for some details on how well they’ve fared to date with mobile app usage, and whether they can give us any indication of when they plan to update on other platforms — like Android. [Update: answers incorporated into text above!]