This Week's Sponsor:

Kolide

Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.


Google Field Trip

Earlier today, Google released Field Trip for iPhone, a tour guide app to alert users through notifications of “cool, hidden, and unique things” that are nearby. Using your location, the app can provide notifications for “your interests” such as Food, Drinks & Fun, Museums, Deals, and more. The app uses various data providers, including their own Zagat, to provide information about places to the user.

Released on Android in the Fall of 2012, Field Trip can “speak” notifications using either a Bluetooth headset or the iPhone’s speaker. A cool thing about Field Trip, in fact, is that you have control over audio output in the Settings: you can choose whether the app should speak the name of an interesting place or also its description, or if you want to enable the app’s audio notifications when device is docked, connected via wired headset, or through a Bluetooth device. This part of the app is really well done. Field Trip can even detect while you’re driving (my guess is through GPS).

The interface and data availability leaves much to be desired. In terms of UI design, my personal taste doesn’t like the choices made by Google: there’s a strange mix of fonts, plus rounded and non-rounded flat buttons that make browsing Field Trip confusing. Furthermore, the app puts buttons to switch between views in the title bar rather than a bottom toolbar – something that is utterly confusing on iOS in my opinion.

There’s no mention of US-only features on Field Trip’s website or iTunes page, but the app didn’t find anything “cool, hidden, or unique” near me. For some reason, it only found a book review in the middle of Viterbo. Curious, I went to check out the location Field Trip pinpointed, and it was a book store. Of all the books available in modern history and sold by my town’s Fernandez book store, why did Field Trip’s data sources collaborate in a miracle of algorithms to deliver the review of “An Irreverent Curiosity” to me? But then again, why the book review, and not just the book itself? What is Google trying to tell me? Why Viterbo, of all places?

I think a passage of the aforementioned review is particularly apt for my experience with the app:

…an entertaining, endearing and, yes, educational mix of history, conspiracy, humor, and personal travelogue.

The book’s description is even better. I won’t paste it here because I don’t want those keywords on my site, but check it out at Amazon.

book

Where are you, book review?

book

Viterbo isn’t the most exotic Italian town ever, but I can confirm that there are, in fact, cool and hidden things here. I wouldn’t bet on unique, but two out of three doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me. And in spite of the cool (exhibit A) and hidden things (exhibit B), Field Trip couldn’t recommend anything (I did activate the option to receive as many notifications as possible). This seems strange considering that a) Google’s own Maps app can certainly discover places thanks to its Pagine Gialle provider and b) for facts or things, solutions like Localscope show how sources like Wikipedia can provide information and data.

Last, there are some curious omissions or inconsistencies worth pointing out. Google recently released a Google Maps SDK for developers, but Field Trip uses Apple’s MapKit-powered maps. This seems like a lost opportunity to combine the embedded map view with the Google Maps app for navigation purposes. The app opens links in Chrome without asking the user about it, but there’s no support for x-callback-url to return to the app – something that Google does support with Chrome.

Google says they’re adding new places and “things” to Field Trip every day, and I like the idea in theory. I think it’s curious that some choices were made for this first release, and, admittedly, if it weren’t for Google I wouldn’t have tried the app. I believe the idea of audio notifications is great, but, alas, the app is empty for me.

Except for that book review.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.