Just Go Guides, a new service from Portugal's ApiApi, Lda offers a couple of mobile based alternatives to traditional paper or electronic travel guidebooks. One, JustGoGuides.mobi, is traditional mobile web based travel guide. The other is more innovative, an on-demand mobile travel guidebook publishing service.
Just Go, which covers Mexican and Central and South American destinations, lets you create free custom travel guides for just the specific countries, cities and dates of your trip.
The downloadable guides are offered as PDFs and in mobile formats for iPods and phones. Having a guide book on the phone that's always available without having to worry about conectivity or data charges sounds great. I was curious though which of the multiple incompatible mobile eBook formats; MobiPocket, Plucker, eReader, linked Notes for iPods or Java ME midlets containing a book and built-in reader Just Go was using.
Just Go's website doesn't have any information on the formats they use or even how their books actually work on the phone. To find out I created a book in each format. Making the books is easy, you specify your travel dates and pick a country and a region within that country. You can filter on the types of content; (hotels, restaurants, transportation, entertainment, shopping or "pampering") to include. Books can be published to as PDFs or as iPod or "mobile" books optimized for either 220x176 or 320x240 screen sizes
To download a book you have to provide your mobile phone number, something I'm always wary of. Just Go sends an SMS containing a four character download code. Once you have the code you enter it on the Just Go website and download the book to your PC. I wondered why Just Go didn't use WAP PUSH to send the book right to my phone.
The format and WAP Push questions were answered when I got my books. I surprised and disapointed to find that the mobile and iPod downloads consist of a Zip file containing hundreds of jpeg images. Each image represents a mobile sized book page. You can see an example of page" from one of the guides (image below). To use the books you transfer the images to your phone or iPod and flip through them with the device's media player or photo viewer. There is no index or hyperlinking to jump to a particular section of a book. Because text is contained in graphics files you can't search it for a specific city or attraction. I can't really see myself using this sort of thing as a guidebook
The most practical way to use Just Go's books is probably to print out the PDF version and take it with you like a traditional guidebook. As paper guidebooks, Just Go's are pretty good with extensive, detailed listings. Because the books are customized to your itinerary, they are smaller and lighter than a typical country or region guidebook. And of course they're free!
Each guidebook starts with background information for the country including sections on history, weather, customs, currency and transportation. The main part of each book consists of detailed city by city listings of hotels, restaurants and attractions. Listings include a picture, description, address, click to call phone number and user ratings. You can book hotels and make restaurant reservations by texting a formatted message to Just Go's UK number.
The mobile website at JustGo.mobi doesn't break any new ground - but it's a more practical way to look up travel information on a phone than the downloadable guides. The content (bottom image) is the same and, as it's the web, information is logically organized with index pages and hyperlinks. You will probably want to use a local prepaid SIM when surfing the web abroad though to avoid exorbitant roaming data rates.
JustGoGuides.mobi redirects to a URL (http://justgoguides.com/iphone/1/index.shtml) that suggests an iPhone site. But non-iPhones aren't blocked and there isn't any iPhone specific code on the site. However, the site uses image maps for selecting the regions within a country. Unfortunately, the majority of mobile browsers do not support image maps. iPhone Safari does, as do the browsers on most touchscreen phones. And thanks to their virtual mouse cursors, Opera Mini (in desktop mode only) and S60WebKit work well with the image maps, even on non-touch screen phones. But on phones without image map support,there's no way to get past the region selection screen and into the core content of the site.
Just Go's concept of publish on demand personalized travel guides is a great one. But the current implementation as a bunch of jpegs isn't very useful. A better approach would be to build the guides on the fly in a popular mobile eBook format like MobiPocket or as custom Java or native apps.
While not as innovative as on-demand mobile travel guides, Just Go's mobile web site is a good resource for anyone traveling in the countries it covers, provided your phone's browser supports image maps.
Mobile Link: JustGoGuides.mobi
Ratings: Content: Usability:
Filed in: Mobile Site Directory - Ttavel/Transit