Hipmunk is a young start-up specializing in the travel industry. The company launched in 2010 and has been concentrating on building Web and Mobile applications to help its users find and book flights and hotels. Hipmunk offers a pretty solid web platform, but also applications for iOS and Android.
The start-up has recently raised $15 million in a series B round of funding, which rises its total amount of funding to $20 million. Its CEO, Adam Goldstein, wants to focus the company efforts on building tools and products related to the travel industry.
Hipmunk is free to use. The company makes money once you book a flight or a night in a hotel. In this post, we’ll go through a deep review of Hipmunk for the iPad and learn how to use it.
A Unified Experience
Hipmunk scores strongly on unifying the user experience through the web, mobile and tablets: If you have used one of them, you’ll be quickly familiar with the others. The different apps use the same pattern and fields, from (location), to (location), depart date, return date, number of persons and the flight class.
The visualization of the search results is almost identical, and once you learn how to use one of their tools, you are already familiar with the rest.
Searching for Flights
The app interface for entering your flight details is clutter-free. There are no ads, extra non-required features, deals or what-so-ever. Hipmunk can also show your iPad’s calendar to help you plan your trip. This is the only noticeable and different feature from using the web interface.
Despite being minimalist and simple, I found the size of the “New Search” window to be overly small. Expanding the window to fill half or more of the iPad screen size would eliminate the need for scrolling and also made picking dates easier. This is essentially the only inefficiency that I found using the app.
Expending the search window couldn’t be detrimental to the overall experience since the remaining of the app is hidden and inaccessible when you are performing the search.
No Multiple Days
I’m not sure about the decision Hipmunk took to remove the multiple days feature. In their web app, you can select a range of departure dates (up to three days). In the iPad app, you can only select a single departure date. This is a feature that I like a lot. When I’m flexible on the travel date, I’d help to have a wider choice.
Hipmunk offers a very creative interface for displaying the available flights. They can be sorted by Price, Departure date, length or Agony (which is a mix of the last three variables).
At the left, you’ll see the price. At the top, you’ll have the depart time. The results are displayed in rows, and inside each row the flight is marked with a particular color (specific to the airline carrier) that stretches from the depart time to the arrival time. The stretch line also displays any possible layover that take place during the flight.
Booking with Hipmunk
Click on the flight of your choice to display a pop-up with more information about the flight. The pop-up gives more details about the departure time, the travel duration and any possible layover. Finally, it offers the option to select the flight. (It’s possible to select the flight by clicking the price button).
Once you select the flight, another pop-up opens and you are offered the option to book directly from your iPad or from your computer (by visiting the Hipmunk site and entering a given pass-phrase). If you decide to book from the iPad, the app will redirect you to Safari and opens the site that will handle the payment.
Searching for Hotels
Though I like the flights search interface, I found that prices are too high comparing to what I get from my local travel agencies. I’m not sure about the reason (maybe it’s more advantageous for US or European customers) but it happens to be so.
The hotels search is more competitive in this regard. Hipmunk pulls data from TripAdvisor and AirBnB. You can pick up any location, and Hipmunk will find available hotels and AirBnB listening.
Again, the interface could benefit from some improvements. The details pop-up for the property you are revisiting is really small. There is no option to zoom in the property photos, which is quite important if you are considering booking a few days (and not just curiously watching). It’s even worse for reviews, as only very few reviews are displayed.
The heatmap is amazing feature which could help you decide which place is more suitable for you. You can toggle the heatmap on by picking one of the criteria: Food, Sights, Shop, Nightlife, Vice and Walk. The map will highlight the areas which are more relevant to the activity you picked.
While it has some shortcomings, the iPad app is still a pretty good and polished iPad app. Hipmunk raising more seed money and focusing on their service means more improvements will certainly come to the different apps.
The availability of the search services in different platforms is another point to take into consideration. It guarantees that whatever your platform of choice or circumstance, you’ll be able to access almost the same services and get the same experience.