Lonely Planet Writer

The year in mobile

I head up Mobile and Innovation here at Lonely Planet, based in Melbourne. I'll try to use this post to bring you up to speed on the mobile initiatives we've been working on here at LP.

Lonely Planet has been experimenting with mobile for some years but we decided to get serious about it in 2008, building out a portfolio of services that we hope will delight the LP travel community. Let's start with a quick run through of some of those experiments for the sake of completeness.

CitySync PDA app (2000)
LP Wap site (2003)
Back to the future: Our first "mobile" applications. CD-ROM based software application for PDA's, targetted at Palm and Handspring (!) users. Go retro and buy one for your PDA ;-) Our second generation mobile site for xhtml-capable phones. Must have been good because Russell Beattie gave it a thumbs up at the time
City Picks Java apps (2004)
Passport to... Sony PSP (2006)
citypicks psppassport
Developed in partnership with Nokia, City Picks was our first downloadable city guide apps for 38 cities, targetted at Series 40 & 60 J2me-enabled phones. Rich digital city guidesto 6 European cities developed for Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) devices. Distributed on Sony's UMD format through retail stores and online

2008 has been a landmark year for mobile in general, breaking the trillion dollar mark as an industry and really starting to find its feet as a media platform. Perhaps the most exciting development this year from a travel publishing perspective, was that we finally saw location-based services and mobile applications make their way into mainstream consciousness - starting with Nokia integrating GPS capabilities into the N95 and ending with Apple revolutionizing the way mobile applications are discovered, purchased and downloaded. Location and apps have certainly been two of the key themes for our mobile service development this year.

Lonelyplanet.com Mobile Site

We recently relaunched our mobile site (or m-site) in tandem with the relaunch of the lonelyplanet.com website. The m-site aims to provide LP users with always-on, real-time access to our content, wherever and whenever they want it. We'd like to start to provide contextually relevant answers to a new set of questions like ‘what should I explore today?’ and ‘what's nearby to me that's worth experiencing?’. For the last few months, we've been experimenting with a feature on the m-site called ‘What’s Around Me?’ - this enables users to select their current or planned location and get Lonely Planet recommendations for the nearest restaurants, nightlife spots, hotels, shops and sights. A dynamic map enables users to see the precise location of these points of interest and their proximity to their current location.

As well as being available for 'normal' xhtml-capable phones, we have developed a custom version for the iPhone and a version that works on old WAP 1.0 devices. Simply point your phone at m.lonelyplanet.com and our device detection technology will serve the most relevant version of the m-site to you based on your phone type.

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Location-based Services

We 've partnered with some of the leading LBS players to make our content available on their platforms, including a partnership with Nokia to make location based city guides available on the Nokia Maps platform.

Mobile Apps: Audio Phrasebooks

We offer a growing range of audio phrasebook applications for download to Java-enabled, Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices. Languages include English to French, Italian, German, Spanish, Czech, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Thai, Russian and Portugues. These products are available for purchase through our global distribution partners.


There are currently 27 different language versions of the audio phrasebooks available for Apple iPhone users via the App Store, including translations from Japanese, German and French. For those of you who have not seen the product in action, here's an Apple commercial featuring the Mandarin phrasebook.
Mobile Apps: City Guides
We have a suite of City guide applications for Java-enabled handsets, featuring 20 of our most popular cities and enabling travellers to access rich guide content on the road from a downloadable app without having to constantly connect to the mobile internet, which is still very expensive for the average traveller
Finally, we're working on some exciting new product prototypes with our developer community which we'll be sharing more about on the LP Labs blog over the next couple of months - if you're a mobile geek, developer or just curious, please do pop across and say hi.