I love travelling, discovering new places and even finding out more about the city I live in. If I’m heading to somewhere new, I’ll usually search for some things to check out while there, generally ending up on a TripAdvisor top ten list or some local tourism site. There are tons of travel guide and review apps that aim to streamline this process, of course — and I’ve tried most — but none have really stuck so I wind up resorting to the web every time.
What’s in Town is an app that aims to solve this problem for people in the UK or travelling here on vacation. It wants to be your one-stop shop for all the country’s sights, attractions and activities, from historic sites to bars and shops, offering detailed information about each location.
The basic premise of What’s in Town is simple — easily letting you find out what there is around you or what points of interest there are in a particular place you are about to visit. It’s limited to the UK for now but could prove useful for British residents or those planning a trip to the UK in the near future with support for an impressive number of cities and towns across the UK and Ireland (and over 1,700 points of interest detailed).
What’s in Town’s UI will be easy to understand for anyone that has used a mapping app before as it is essentially a Google map in a wrapper with POIs pre-labeled. There are color-coded pins on the map for historic locations, shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels up and down the UK. In the menu, you can toggle on and off location types to filter results and also set a specific location to search within.
Look at the map zoomed out and you’ll see a rather intimidating sea of green pins for historical locations, as shown in the screenshot below. What’s in Town has actually really nailed the historical POIs — they are plentiful, each can show you additional information with a click and even bring up the Wikipedia entry for that location — but there aren’t that many locations in the app yet in the other categories.
In fact, if you toggle off the green pins, you’ll see that only a few towns have entries for bars, restaurants and shops. The database is constantly being updated, but it needs to flesh out its other categories in order to give a complete picture about what is around in a particular location. Further, unlike the historic locations, there’s no way to see more information about a bar, hotel or restaurant — there’s a ‘more information’ button, but it does not bring up any information when tapped. It would be great to see What’s in Town pull in reviews and photos from TripAdvisor, Foursquare or Yelp for these location types in order to be as useful as the historic pins.
There’s also a search function, but it needs a little work. Filtering by location made no difference in my search results, there are no search suggestions while typing and it generally feels a little unintuitive as a tool for finding things. As a UK resident, I have a good idea of where the major cities are located on the map meaning I could easily zoom in and pan around to find things, but if I was vacationing here and not as knowledgable I would expect the search to be a little more helpful.
Further, the UI of What’s in Town is usable, but nothing to shout about. There’s one ad at the bottom of the map that is a little obtrusive but that can be removed with an in-app purchase. The experience can be a little laggy and there are occasional crashes. The app generally feels like it lacks a bit of polish.
Overall, I feel that What’s in Town is frustrating because it is a terrific idea — identifying great things to see and do in particular locations and giving you quick access to information on those points of interest — but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For anyone travelling in the UK, it could become a really useful tool but needs some work and refinement to bring it up to a standard where it becomes a tool you can really rely on.
You can download What’s in Town on Google Play for free and check it out for yourself.