It seems to be my theme this week to review useful travel apps. I stumbled across ExpertFlyer’s iPhone app a couple of days ago and posted my thoughts.
Then, this morning, I saw an article on Seat Guru’s new iPhone app. A bit of background on SeatGuru. It was started by someone I consider a good friend, Matt Daimler, who has gone on to found other successful companies. He sold SeatGuru to TripAdvisor back in 2007. For quite some time (IMO) things were status quo. There was integration with TripAdvisor and overlaying of user reviews. But, the software stayed pretty true to its original form.
After testing the iPhone app, I see some big improvements and a little more work to do. The app is free so I downloaded it quickly to give it a test spin.
The home screen of the app is straight forward. Seat maps are what I use SeatGuru for most often (along with SeatExpert which I also find very useful in the desktop version). But, the home screen shows a few new things, such as flight status, the ability to post photos, and the ability to search for and purchase tickets (more on that later). There’s also a tab called “My Stuff” which appears to require linking your Facebook account. Since I’m still pretty social media illiterate, I’ll leave others to test that feature.
The navigation through the seat map function is super easy. The app auto-completes common things. For example, I typed in “UA” for airline and it gave me “United” as a choice. Love that, since I can’t type to save my life on an iPhone.
The results screen clearly tells me there are multiple versions of the plane I’m (fake) flying today, though it selected the correct version for my trip. The underlying images of the plane look very sleek, much better than the old desktop skin.
I fiddled around a bit with the “Search For Flights” function. I was really curious if they would push me to a third-party booking engine or not. As you can see from the screens below, everything was displayed clearly and very easy to navigate.
Bonus points here on the search progress bar. I got a phone call in the middle of this search. As soon as I hung up, the bar started moving again and finished shortly thereafter.
Once I got this far in the booking process, the app automatically sent me to United’s website, or something that looked like it. I hadn’t seen this specific mobile booking engine from United before, and it did have the old “tulip” logo on the redirect page. But it did drop me into something that sure looked like a United booking engine.
This was where I encountered my only glitch. While there’s a “back” button in the upper left-hand corner next to the SeatGuru logo, I couldn’t get the app to go back. It tried, but just kept stopping on the first page of the booking engine.
I tried to find a seat that had a photo attached to it but in my half dozen attempts didn’t come across one. Again, no biggie since this isn’t something I rely on SeatGuru or SeatExpert for.
All in all, a solid addition to my iPhone, and one you should download pretty much now. It’s free and I’m sure you’ll find a use for it at some point. It combines two useful things for me, a seat map search and flight status in the same app. I’m not sure if I’ll use it for both of these purposes, but I do like apps that do more than one thing, they tend to gravitate closer to my home screen than other single-use travel apps. I won’t be using it to book tickets, but I definitely see using it in the future, if not just to answer questions more quickly from people asking for travel advice on the fly.