100 cities on your wrist

The slow but steady rise in popularity of wearables has captured the imaginations of our digital product team over the past year. In particular, the ways in which this sort of technology–especially within the watch space–can genuinely aid travellers.

For this reason, we recently teamed up with Samsung (as part of our larger Best in Travel campaign) to develop a companion version of our quickly evolving Guides app for their latest Gear S3 smartwatch.

Guides is Lonely Planet’s flagship app, which focuses on providing city content for travellers ‘on the ground’. We launched earlier this year with 37 cities, and are adding new cities every month, with the current tally at 100.

Lonely Planet’s Director of User Experience, Craig Murray, explains why we felt it was time to begin extending the app’s functionality into the wearables space:

‘With a quickly growing segment of our Guides user base being on Android devices, this partnership with Samsung was an opportunity to bring relevance and utility to an exciting new platform (Gear S3).’

We considered the key needs for Guides users with a smartwatch. This focused us on the most beneficial things travellers need for points of interest, when they’re out and about. Helping users get relevant info, access to bookmarks, and directions to ‘must see’ points of interest were critical.

As a traveller, understanding your position within a destination gives you a sense of confidence, allowing you to properly explore your surroundings.

Nearby points of interest are easily browsable on the S3 with additional lightweight info and actions.
‘Samsung’s Android SDK allowed us to quickly integrate the Guides application and have it exchange rich information with the Guides watch application. Developing the Guides watch application for Gear S3 was extremely easy using the Tizen’s Device API and Web UI framework.’ — Subodh Nijsure, lead Android developer on the app

It was vital that the UI reflected not just the core Guides app, but also our revamped aesthetic on lonelyplanet.com–which is highly visual, minimalist, and user friendly–in order to let the content do the talking:

‘In essence we’ve kept a look and feel familiar with our other digital products, but considered the form factor and ‘glanceability’ necessary for watch usage.’ — Craig Murray

This same approach was applied to our brief from Samsung to come up with four exclusive watch faces, with added features such as weather information and a world clock (all available now on the Gear S3 app store).

The Guides companion app for the new Samsung watch launches today.

A big thanks to our team and our technology support partner Impossible Labs for all their efforts.

We’d love to get any feedback, including any thoughts on how we might improve it further, so comment below when you get the chance to test it out.

Do stay tuned to our account here on Medium (and be sure to follow us) for a broader update about what’s to come in 2017 for our Guides app soon, plus other product news. We have big plans in the 12 months to come!

Keen to be part of our mobile team? We’re hiring in our California and Tennessee offices. More information available on our site.