As a traveler and language learner, I am particularly fond on Lonely Planet's phrasebooks and I find many of their other travel-related materials useful as well. I follow @lonelyplanet on Twitter, and in general have a pretty good opinion about them.
So it should come as no surprise that when looking for iPad apps, I search on their name, hoping to find some can't-live-without killer iPad app for world travelers. What I found was 1000 Ultimate Experiences — a complete cop-out of an app, and rightly rated 1.5 stars (out of five) on the app store. And with an asking price of $20!
Now, yesterday I see their bogus free offer for their app. It's clearly in hopes of getting people to rate the app higher, so they can make money from it on the app store. Personally, I find this completely offensive.
Rather than looking at their low rating and learning from the mistakes of their horrible app, Lonely Planet is trying to change perceptions and create a false sense that their offering is much better than it really is. And sadly, it's working. Since offering it for free, the rating is already up to 3.5.
So Loneyly Planet, I hope you're reading this, because I took advantage of your free offer, and I'm not impressed. It's not even worth the price of free, and I'm going to tell you exactly what you need to hear about your (cr)app.
- First and foremost, it lacks content. It's a graphics-heavy presentation of what is essentially just a bullet list of information lacking depth. FAIL.
- Second, for all of those graphics and animation, the app is not at all interactive. If you're going to give me something as basic as a list of things to do and see, at least give me a checkbox for the ones I've done and for those I want to do.
- It's not searchable. WHAT!? You give me a giant (disorganized!) 1,000 things to do and see in the world, and fail to give me any tool to break them down by geographic location? Another epic FAIL.
- Too much waiting. I hate any animations that leave me waiting before I can click/touch/tap and do the work I wanted to do when I opened your app.
The bottom line is that Lonely Planet's app demonstrates a fundamental failure to understand what the iPad is and how it is used. That's called a mistake, and it's something that can be overcome. They also fail to recognized their audience, which is a bigger mistake but also able to be overcome.
But failing to learn from mistakes — or worse, trying to repaint history as if they weren't mistakes at all — that's much harder to forgive. It puts a stain on the Lonely Planet name as a whole, and makes me far less likely to buy the hundreds of dollars worth of LP products that I buy... and much less likely to recommend them on my web site.
If they're willing to repackage this garbage and mark it back up to full price, how can I feel the confidence to buy anything else with their name on it?