Aug 05 AT 3:00 AM Adam Oram 0 Comments

Review: What’s in Town


What’s in Town touts itself as “the essential Android app to find out more about UK Cities, Towns and Villages”. If you live in the UK, or are taking a vacation in the country, it wants to be your go-to guide for all the sights and attractions — from historic points of interest to bars, shops and accommodation.

Regular Android and Me readers will remember we took a look at What’s in Town last year and the app’s philosophy remains much the same:

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.

When first launching What’s in Town, the app will download the data needed for its maps and locations. This only happens on first launch and doesn’t take too long.

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Once you’re in, you’ll see a familiar map-based UI — as What’s in Town is built on Google Maps, this should come as no surprise. Color-coded pins relate to points of interest in different categories — Historical, Shopping, Bars & Restaurants, and Accommodation. You can choose to view the categories all in one, or filter by point of interest type. There is one ad at the bottom of the screen, which can be removed with an in-app purchase, but it does not tend to impede the user too much.

If you zoom out, you can see the number of pins in each geographical area — this is much improved over previous versions that showed an overwhelming number of individual pins that were impossible to decipher.

Like the previous version, most of the points of interest are for historical locations — What’s in Town really nails the historical POIs and is ideal for this type of tourism. Each historical entry provides a little summary and a link to see more information. While the link is labelled “go to site”, it actually opens a popover window for the Wikipedia entry for that location which provides a more detailed insight (side note: this label should probably just say “More Info” or “Wikipedia” to make its function clearer). For the majority of locations I tested, the historical monuments and buildings were spot on with only a few exceptions. I hope the database is constantly evolving and more will be added.

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Where the app succeeds with historical points of interest, it falters in other categories. If you opt to view one of the other sections on its own, you’ll see that only a few towns have entries for bars, restaurants, shops or accommodation. It’s disappointing that these are so lacking as it makes the app much less useful outside of a few locations. When I tested the app last year, the situation was much the same and it seems relatively little has been added in these categories. When you do find a bar, restaurant or accommodation listing, the “go to site” link does not function which means information on these venues is scarce within the app and requires some research outside of the app — rendering it fairly unhelpful.

An added feature is the ability to see the local council for the area you are viewing — this then gives you easy access to the council website and more information on local amenities like car parks, public toilets and so on. This button is a little hit and miss — the first time I used the app it appeared to be totally non-functional as it was unresponsive when tapped. After quitting the app and reopening, it did begin working when I searched for my next location. One downside to the feature, however, is that it does not seem to work when panning across to a new location — it still brings up the council from the last searched-for location and not the area that you are currently viewing.

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Search has seen some improvement in the latest version. You can now search for a town or city, or a specific landmark, and have accurate results. Previously, search was completely lacking so this is a much needed addition. Further improvements could be made to auto-filling search queries and finding the most relevant result.

What’s in Town has improved in performance and functionality since last year. There remains a wealth of information for historical points of interest across the UK making it easy to discover more about your local town or vacation destination. A lot of bugs have been ironed out over time, but the app still has room for improvement — both in terms of listings for bars, restaurants, shops and accommodation as well as in overall polish.

If you want to explore more of the UK, download What’s in Town for free on Google Play.

Adam is Reviews Editor for PhoneDog, Android and Me and Today's iPhone. A Media and Communications graduate from Newcastle University in the UK, Adam is a Bradford City FC fanatic and self-confessed tech-nerd. You can follow him on Twitter: @adamoram.

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