Since launching in 2010, social travel startup Gogobot has been trying to play a role in legitimizing online travel discovery, fighting the shoddy design and link farm leanings that reined in the space. Focusing on collecting and curating quality, user-generated photos and reviews for travel destinations all over the world, Gogobot set out to create the new, digital Lonely Planet — a trusted mobile and web resource for trusted travel advice from experts and friends.
About 14 months ago, Gogobot launched its first mobile application (for iOS), something that Gogobot founder Travis Katz says “completely transformed the business” and led to 400 percent growth between December 2011 and December 2012. Today, Gogobot counts over 2.5 million registered users among its ranks, 40 percent of which are logging in via mobile and 35 percent of content created on Gogobot comes from mobile users.
But, the mobile landscape has changed dramatically since Gogobot launched on iOS, Katz says, particularly as a result of the exponential growth of Android, which reached 75 perent marketshare globally in November, according to IDC. Android as a platform is now categorically impossible to ignore, and as such, the startup is today finally launching its first Android app.
Like its iOS version, Gogobot’s new Android app allows users to search for and book hotels, restaurants and activities across more than 60,000 travel destinations worldwide. However, the app also brings some features that will be new to Gogobot faithful, including the ability to search and book a hotel on the fly, with filters for realtime hotel pricing and availability, user rankings and hotel class — and, of course, Gogobot’s characteristic social recommendations.
Katz tells us that, with its new Android app, Gogobot is looking to “step deeper” into commerce and offer improved search mechanisms. On Gogobot for iOS, users can pop over to New York, the founder explains, look for hotels, sort results based on where your friends have been, but the experience is mostly about travel researching, and reading reviews. On Android, we wanted to take the experience a step further, he continues, so that users can input the dates they’ll be traveling and pull realtime hotel pricing and availability information and, with a few clicks, book the cheapest.
While booking functionality is available on Gogobot for iOS (and 10 percent of the service’s bookings are on mobile), the user experience is far from perfect. But, on Android, the entire process is much easier, and the filtering capabilities now go much deeper, as users can search for hotels based only on what’s available, ask it to show just those that are available for under $200/night, limit results to three star hotels, for example, or sort destinations based on where your friends have stayed.
On top of that, on the restaurant side, the new app extends these enhanced filters to the process of discovering and booking restaurants (by food type, etc.), allowing users book tables on the go by way of its OpenTable integration.
That being said, the most notable feature of Gogobot’s new app is its integration with Google Street View for Android, which, simply put, uses the phone’s compass to turn your Android device into a virtual window, with 360-degree panoramic views of any location within Gogobot’s database.
This means that, as you look for a hotel or vet potential sites for your next vacation, you can now remotely check out neighborhoods, restaurants or hotels — both inside and out — via Gogobot’s new AR-like integration. Hey, that hotel looks nice, but let’s check out the neighborhood. *Clicks into Street View* Oh, it’s right next to a sewage collection facility … uh, next.
It’s features like this that are beginning to make Gogobot a truly appealing destination for travel planning on the Web and on mobile. While a lot of the service’s usage comes from those just looking to browse through destinations or check out its curated travel guides and postcards, i.e. passive, casual usage, Gogobot is starting to become a real travel utility. Though Gogobot has long excelled on the design and social fronts — and by offering a sizable repository of photos that aren’t awful — this has something that has been missing. But the new Android app shows a lot of promise.
Gogobot has also attempted to develop not just a simple iOS to Android port, but has instead customized its app with a new user interface that will look unfamiliar to users of Gogobot for iOS but is optimized for Android handsets in a way that’s meant to make the most out of its strengths. In sum, that means there have been a lot of small tweaks around UI and UX, offering Android-friendly ways to switch between menus and tabs and so on.
Lastly, while the 360-degree panoramic indoor and outdoor views take the cake, it’s great to see that Gogobot has finally begun offering support for languages other than English, as the startup now offers versions of its Android app in Japanese, Italian, German, Portugese and Hebrew.
For more, check out the Gogobot for Android demo below: