As someone who travels quite a lot, I know that it isn’t always easy to find something to do in your dead times. Whenever I find myself at a loose end, I usually just go for a walk to try and find an interesting place to eat or an interesting shop. But aren’t we living in the age of technology? Shouldn’t there be an easier and more convenient solution for finding things to do?
Well, if you are looking for a simple mobile app to get you going in seconds, Highlights has got you covered. It’s a great little iPad and iPhone app that can help you find all sorts of interesting places around you. How does it do it? Let’s find out!
Getting StartedYou can buy Highlights for a dollar in the App Store. It was selected as iPad App of the Week a few days ago, and it surely deserves this praise. Basically, all it does is find interesting and popular places around you, and then shows them to you in a map – along with some handy information about them. It’s quick, easy and reliable.
How Does It Work?The most important thing with these kind of apps is always how accurate the results are, and the quality of the places that are recommended to you. To measure the coolest spots around you, Highlights uses an algorithm that takes data from Foursquare and Gowalla to find not only the most visited places in a certain area, but also (and most importantly) the best reviewed and commented.
You’re not going to get schools or Starbucks that get tons of check-ins in Foursquare, you’re only going to get the best and most highly recommended places.
Finding a PlaceSo, you’re in town and you’ve got a couple of hours to kill. Open the Highlights app, and automatically it will update your location on the map (it uses Google Maps to display your location), and show you with pins the most interesting and recommended spots around you.
If you are planning a trip and are not yet at your location, you can use the search function to find the city that you would like to get recommendations for. Finding a place among the many pins can be confusing, so you can also use the handy bar on the side to see all of the places, sorted by ranking and accompanied by a small picture from the place. Clicking any of these places in the sidebar will cause the map to zoom in on it, revealing its location more closely.
PlanningIf you want to get more information from a place, such as reviews and pictures, you can select it to bring up a menu where you can find reviews and photos from Gowalla, as well as some other stuff like the address and the distance from your current spot. You can then add these places to an existing “Plan”, or you can create a new one and then share it with the world.
People can mark certain locations and group them as a “Trip”, that can then be uploaded and shared with other Highlights users. I’m not certain where these Trips are taken from, other than the actual users, but there are a bunch of them from USA Today and other sources. You can select any of these trips and add them to your planner.
Other StuffI was curious to see how the app performed while being offline, as you might be faced with this situation once you’re out there exploring. I tried it offline and it seemed to keep all my spots and locations on the map, as long as the task wasn’t killed. Travelling and the web are not always the best of friends, but most of the places that return a high volume of results will also be places you can find a connection.
There are also two handy features that make using this app quicker. The first, and probably my favorite feature is called “Recommended in this Area”, which lets you browse through a number of places smartly sorted into categories such as Culture, Education, Entertainment, Hotels, etc. The other feature is called “Filter”, and it works like you would expect, letting you filter your recommendations by categories and distance.
I had always used Foursquare and Google Maps to find interesting places around me when I was visiting a city, but none of them are really as reliable and convenient as Highlights. It’s the perfect companion for any tourist.
It’s only $0.99 and it’s also available on the iPhone. I found the algorithm used to find great places worked beautifully, and although the results will vary from place to place, it always seemed more comprehensive than other apps in this field.
Whatever it is you are looking for, I’m sure you will find it with Highlights.