Sunday, 11 October 2009

A new travel buddy called iPhone

For several years m-commerce has been proclaimed as the next big boost for the travel industry, but unfortunately the forecasts never seemed to materialise due to both technological as well as economical reasons. Maybe the increasing usage of the so-called smartphones, especially the iPhone, can now bring fresh winds into the sails.

Mobile ad spending worldwide is predicted to grow by 74% in 2009 to $913.5 million, according to a Gartner report. After 2011, this trend will continue as smartphones and flat-rate data contracts become more affordable to mainstream users. (source: www.newmediatrendwatch.com/)

Since its introduction in 2007 more than 20 million iPhones have been sold in over 80 countries. The iPhone is not merely a telephone or a mini-computer but also a platform for developers of third-party applications which can be sold through the AppleStore and thus the iPhone platform represents a high potential for an eMarket place. The iPhone has already outperformed the competitors on the smartphone market (see illustration below, click on chart to enlarge).


The impact of the iPhone on the travel industry will grow as it adds value to the user experience through mobile web access, GPS map applications for navigation and camera functionality combined with a very user-friendly touch-screen interface (just to name a few).

Hence the iPhone supports the tourist in all 3 phases of travel: before – during – after the trip:
  1. Searching the web for information about the destination before the journey
  2. Using location-based services and navigation to points of interests or posting of comments about the quality of hotels on review platforms during the stay at the destination
  3. Sharing photos, videos, stories and experiences on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Flickr or Twitter.

Apple’s iStore lists several thousand travel applications, which makes the travel category to the fifth largest category behind games, entertainment, books and education. Of course there are also many totally useless applications, but a great number of DMOs, suppliers and intermediaries have already developed valuable iPhone applications of high quality which are mostly for free (see screenshots below).


Travellers in the future will book their accommodation mainly on arrival because of the growing use of mobile phones, says Jeffrey Boyd, CEO of Priceline. (Source: Travelmole, Sep 2009). The consumer behaviour will change in a way that many people are travelling to the destination without having booked a hotel in advance, knowing they can book one on their mobile device at arrival and that they can get a good deal.

As you might have guessed by now, yes I do have an iPhone myself and it is certainly more than a well-designed toy for nerds. I have installed and frequently use the following travel applications on my iPhone: Tripwolf Travel Guide, weather report, AroundMe, Google maps, public transport time schedule, language translator (see screenshots).


Unfortunately, the high costs for data roaming remain for me the biggest obstacle for using the iPhone as a fully-fledged travel buddy abroad.

For more information on the market size, the future of the iPhone and various travel applications you can download the interesting PhoCus Wright article ‘The iPhone and Travel’ (July 2009)

If you have tried out cool travel-related applications on your iPhone then please share your experience with us!

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