Review: mTrip Rome

screenshot from my iPhone 3GS

Being able to fit all your travel resources on a small mobile device can help save space and cut down on things you need to carry as you meander through the city. Imagine having your map, GPS, travel guide, and phrase book all in one place and easily accessible at the drop of a hat?

And this is where mTrip come into the picture.  I first read about mTrip in September while I was reading the news.  In theAP article, “mTrip app for iPhone uses augmented reality,” by Colleen Long, published on September 2, 2010, you can read about the mTrip app, of which the author focuses mainly on the “Augmented Reality” feature of the app and addresses the pro’s and con’s of using the app as well as a quote from one of the app’s developers.

Travel guides, though, still have their uses so do not toss them out yet.  The mTrip app, in particular, would be extremely useful in planning what to do on your trip.  A good point to remember is that the itinerary created by your app should be flexible, and you should only use the app as much as you feel you want to.  To rely simply on one travel resource not only shortchanges the city you are visiting but will also detract from your own travel experience.

They have numerous apps for various cities (you can see the full list of cities on their web site: for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.  You can purchase the app here (current price at the time of publication: $3.99).

So how does it work?  First, you put in the dates that you will be in Rome. Second, you let the app know where you are staying.  The app gives you the option of selecting from the many hotels in its database or you can add a location.  If you have not determined where you are staying or do not want the app to create your itinerary from where you are staying (might be useful for those of us that prefer to stay outside the city with friends or simply want to be in the “center” of things), you can simply tap the “City Center” button.  The app is very customizable, and you can always change your accommodations later should your plans change.

Next, you have two options.  You can create your own itinerary, or you can have the app create on for you.  For the seasoned traveler like myself, I would probably chose the first option since I have a good idea of what I want to see.  If it is your first time in Rome, this app can pick some of the more popular sites and museums for you.

The mTrip app then asks how you want to stack your activities.  Do you want to see more museums and monuments while avoiding more the overtly religious aspects of Rome?  There are sliders for various categories that you can adjust or you can leave them as they are.  You can also increase the visit intensity (low means fewer things to see each day for a slower pace while high means more things to see each day for a faster pace), have the app choose more alternate attractions as well as incorporate “favorites” that you may have selected, too.  Once you have tweaked your preferences, tapping the “Launch” button will create a day by day itinerary for you which you can then edit and adjust.

The app can create a walking tour based on your current location.  The app will take you from place to place, and it is in this view that you can use the augmented reality which makes use of the phone’s camera (for the iPhone, you need to have an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 to use this feature).  The great thing about the navigation feature is that it also works offline (but if you can get a 3G connection or wi-fi, the app can use the GPS features of the phone).  How?  Simply use the map provided by the app.  Simply indicate to the phone where you are, and it will calculate the directions for you.  Of course, if you are not familiar with Rome and are not sure where you are, this might be a difficult feature to use.  But if you use the app at the start of your day and pay attention to where you are/end up, it should be easy to use the app offline.

The mTrip app also contains information on opening and closing times, ticket cost, contact information and more as well as reviews and short pieces of history (often from Wikipedia) about the site/monument/location you are visiting when available.  If the information is wrong in the app, you can submit a change to the information presented in the app, too.

The app can also be synced with Facebook to allow for easy updates by using “Electronic Postcards” created by the app and sent to your profile so that your friends and family can follow your trip progress back home.  If you do not use Facebook, you also have the option of sending an email, too!  You can also customize the pictures used in the postcards to ones that you have taken yourself, or you also have the option of snapping a picture at that moment.

Of course, if you dislike the itinerary created for you or you wish to reset your itinerary and start from scratch, go to the Settings menu by clicking More > Settings > Reset Itinerary.  It took me a while to find this feature, and, if you are experiment and playing with the app, makes this an important function to know.  Also in the settings tab, you can change the currency used as well as the language and logout of Facebook.

Overall, I like and wholeheartedly recommend the mTrip app for Rome! I envision using the app on my next trip to Rome this summer.  I am impressed by the apps versatility, especially because it allows you to customize your trip as you choose as well as update erroneous information as you encounter it.  Keep in mind that, unlike many major American cities, wi-fi access is not as diffuse in Rome as you might find elsewhere in Europe or in the US.  And this app will certainly tax your battery, especially if you make heavy use of the GPS features of the phone/device (which are not required to use the app).  The mTrip FAQ and Support section shows you how to avoid roaming fees so make sure you read those sections carefully before using the app outside of your home country.  While some have made note of the app overabundance of features, you can simply choose and use those features that you would find most useful and helpful for your trip.  At the very least, the app is a useful resource for finding things to see and do on your next (or first) trip to Rome.

Please remember to put down your phone/device every now and then and experience the city before you. Remember that it is OK to get lost on vacation — sometimes getting lost makes for the best trips!

This is a helpful demo — check it out:

DISCLAIMER:  I am not an employee of mTrip, was not paid for my review, but have written for their blog. I also paid for the app myself from the Itunes store.  I also have not tested the app in Rome.  I plan to visit Rome soon and will have a follow up post on how the app works in the near future.