Thursday, October 21, 2010; 12:19 AM
A lot of travel apps in the Android Market are designed to help you organize your upcoming trips. Frankly, I've never been that interested in them--not because I didn't think one might be useful, but because after having entered all of my information with the airlines, I had no interest in repeating the process on my phone's smaller screen and keyboard. The free WorldMate app, however, suddenly became very desirable to me when it distinguished itself by completely eliminating that process.
If you're a frequent traveler, you know that when you book your flights, you get your itinerary e-mailed to you. To use WorldMate, you simply forward that e-mail, as is, to email@example.com, and all of that information enters your account and the app. It's incredibly fast and easy. You do have to sign up for a WorldMate account beforehand, but once you go through that simple procedure, adding trips to your schedule is a dream (and the service backs up your data online, too).
The app is elegantly and intuitively laid out. On the main screen you see My Trips, Book a Hotel, Weather Forecast, Currency Converter, and Travel Notifications. When you tap My Trips, a list of all of your upcoming trips displays. Click a trip, and it shows you details about each leg of the journey. You can see the flight number and time, the layover time (if applicable), the terminal, the flight duration, the seat number, the confirmation number, and even the type of airplane. Click the map button by the airport name, and the app opens up the airport's address in Maps. Slick.
Weather reporting works as you would expect. The screen displays the five-day forecast for your current city, for a city in one of your upcoming trips, or for an additional city that you can search for. Travel notifications, meanwhile, could really come in handy and keep you from missing your flight (or showing up 8 hours early). You get many options to customize the notifications, including the time of notification, whether to play a sound, or whether to be notified only while you are traveling.
The one thing that I would really love this app to have is boarding passes. Many airlines are now offering smartphone-size confirmations with bar codes, and you can just scan your phone to check in. That would be a terrific feature. What else? Maybe integrated car-rental info, flight booking software, or a way to connect the app to a frequent-flier account. And WorldMate has one small drawback in that sometimes it takes slightly longer than you'd expect to add your trip (though still only 10 minutes or so at the longest). Other than that, WorldMate is a solid app that really delivers a practical service.