Time Out raises the city app bar

The London-based publisher’s new city guides are a significant improvement on other apps on the market, Time Out’s city guides have always been reassuringly savvy. While the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide titles have become default picks for countries and continents, Time Out’s “written by locals” franchise excels in finding zoomed-in, in-the-know, tips in urban nooks across the world.

The London-based company has struggled through the recession, but a 50% buyout by a venture capital firm, announced this week, has cleared £10m of debts, and will signal significant investment in the digital future of the company.

This week also saw the unveiling of a selection of new city guide apps, to Barcelona, Paris, Buenos Aires and Berlin, and we’ve had a sneak peak at their new London app, which will be available next week. At £2.99 each, they are £10 cheaper than their print versions, and seem a significant improvement on other city guide apps on the market. Users can find their exact location on Time Out’s maps, and search for recommendations around them, overlaying restaurants, bars, galleries, ‘Editor’s picks’ and dozens of other options. A bookmarks feature also allows users to create daily itineraries on their own customised maps.

Crucially, as travellers become increasingly wary of the horrific potential of roaming charges, these new apps are built to be entirely functional offline – the software requires (free) GPS to locate you, but doesn’t need to access the web for its recommendations.

While making their expertise accessible in the significantly cheaper app format might risk cannibalising their content, Time Out’s expansion marks a significant move in the digital travel sphere, where the company will see the city guide market as their home turf. Lonely Planet currently dominates the sector, with over 70 city titles available for iPhone and Android devices.

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