App review: Minube, a different, smaller kind of travel app

Upon undertaking the planning for a family winter road trip a few days ago, I quickly realized that finding good travel info is not as easy as it seems. It’s true that there is a lot of information out there but that information is heavily influenced by advertisers and SEO machinations. There is also an incredible amount of information available, and it’s not easy to sift through it and find the info you need.

There are also other considerations when looking for travel content. Is it professionally written or user-created like TripAdvisor? What is the mix between sponsored content and unbiased information? How much of the content is free to access? At their best, travel sites are like a local friend who happens to know a lot about their city and wants to give curated recommendations. All this is even more applicable to apps, where there’s a need to access relevant travel info on the go including nearby attractions and hotel reservations.

Minube: recommendations for Portland, Oregon.

Minube: recommendations for Portland, Oregon.

Which is why I really like an app I stumbled upon: Minube. It seems fresh, though they have been around for a while (at least for two years in the US), and the recommendations seem genuine, varied and unique. The app allows users to browse locations by the type of destination you want with Family, Relax, and Adventure just a few of the options, or just search for specific places. The app itself is visually gorgeous with stunning photos of attractions both natural and urban, and recommendations of restaurants, cafes, bars and food trucks as well. Users can like a location, save it, and share it with friends.

What I like about Minube is that it doesn’t have an endless list of locations. Rather, they provide a shorter list of popular tourist sites and some off-the-beaten-path places. All are beautifully presented with at least one personal recommendation and the result is that the locations seem smartly curated, like a local friend showing off the city. I also like the ability to research on a web browser and save that work to a PDF to view when offline. Where I’d like to see more features are to see all the destinations I have saved on a single map and perhaps create a route between them all. A bit more detail on opening times would also be helpful and reservations for restaurants while we’re at it. For hotels I didn’t find Minube very helpful. Even Hotels Tonight provides an indication of the hotel comfort level in its results view. Also, the descriptions of the hotels are also too generic and don’t help me make a choice.

Finally, it seems that travel guides might not be the goal of Minube after all. A few days ago they launched a feature that lets users create photo albums of their trips and share them on the app. While this is intended to drive more trip planning and eventually booking, it seems contrary to the current trend in mobile apps to offer limited but focused functionality as opposed to adding more, perhaps unrelated, features.

Minube’s future is hard to predict. Will it grow vertically and add more locations and more reviewers, losing that curated feeling but adding valuable content? Will it grow horizontally and add varied travel-related features with the goal that more users book through the app? Right now, Minube has a special look & feel that draws people in to explore more content. I hope they can hold on to that.

 

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