Lonely Planet Writer

New Apple smartwatch takes travel apps into the future

Apple today put its first smartwatch on sale online, and several travel companies have launched apps that are custom-made for the device.

Aman tries out one of the new Apple Watches at the Covent Garden outlet in central London.
Aman tries out one of the new Apple Watches at the Covent Garden outlet in central London. Image by John Stillwell/PA Wire

A look at these apps suggests how travel companies expect travelers to use smartwatches in the years to come. That’s something that may be of interest even if you are not immediately committed to spending between $349 to more than $10,000 on an Apple Watch.

Apps from airlines, such as Air Canada, Alaska, American, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, JetBlue, SAS, and United, typically come with standard features such as check-in notification, alerts for gate changes and connecting, a countdown until boarding begins, information on flight delays and cancellations, and baggage carousel details for retrieving checked luggage.

On-demand hotel booking app HotelTonight has built an Apple Watch app that lets you find and reserve rooms at hotels in your immediate geographic vicinity, based on geo-location signals from the smartwatch.

Different styles of the new Apple Watch Sport on display at an Apple event in Berlin, Germany.
Different styles of the new Apple Watch Sport on display at an Apple event in Berlin, Germany. Image by Martyn Landi/PA Wire

Online hotel reservation website Booking.com has an app for the Watch that lets you see the closest hotel with a vacancy, make a reservation for tonight in one click, get turn-by-turn directions to it, find out your room number, and get an alert when your room is available for check in. Cleartrip (a leading Indian online travel agency), Expedia Orbitz, and Priceline all have apps, too.

Hotel chain Starwood is the first from a hotel chain to create an app that lets you use the Watch to open your room through a wireless signal at select Aloft, Element and W hotels in the United States. It also does many of the other tricks that the HotelTonight and Booking.com apps perform.

A selection of the new and colourful Apple Watches with a digital time display at the Covent Garden outlet in central London.
A selection of the new and colourful Apple Watches with a digital time display at the Covent Garden outlet in central London. Image by John Stillwell/PA Wire

There are other smartwatches on the market, of course, such as Samsung Gear , Pebbel , and AndroidWear. These have interesting travel apps, too.

Exhibit A: TripCase, a digital itinerary tracker, has apps for all three of these smartwatches plus the Apple Watch. Its apps include the standard flight status updates and gate change alerts, plus faster access to itinerary information.

The user review site Yelp has built an app for Gear S that helps travelers find local restaurants, cafes, and other attractions. The Inrix app for the Gear S advises travelers on the best time to leave for the airport or other destination based on expected travel time in traffic.