Own Your Travel Itinerary with TripIt

In October 2006, a new service appeared on the web that promised to make it easy to manage all the fine travel details of a trip. As a frequent traveler, I signed up for TripIt in November of 2006, shortly after they launched, and have never looked back.

The concept is really simple. A traveler is headed to Austin, Texas (as I will be for SXSW Interactive in a few weeks). He books his flight on Southwest airlines and gets an email confirmation with ticket reservation, itinerary, etc. Sight unseen, he forwards this email to plans@tripit.com and moves on to reserving his rental car and hotel.

On the backend, TripIt recieves the forwarded confirmation email and knows exactly how to read it into their master database. The email can even be forwarded from an unregistered email address which you can claim later.

The beautiful next step is the organizing of all this information. TripIt sorts your travel plans out into “Trips” and will give you everything in chronological order. This traveler going to SXSW, for instance, has a chronological listing that shows his departing flight, his rental car pickup, his hotel information and his return flight. As a bonus, Tripit gives him a Google Map of the area you’re staying on.

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Now, I don’t like just plugging services for the sake of plugging services. You can go to Mashable if you want to be filled with nonsense. However, TripIt actually is a useful web product, but more than that, it’s a useful mobile product. If you have a smartphone (Blackberry, Treo, iPhone, etc) then TripIt becomes infinitely more useful.

For mobile users, you can access all of your itineraries by browsing to m.tripit.com, something that has become the defacto reference point for all of my travelling and checking in. It literally, if you’re a smartphone user, eliminates the need for a stack of trifolded paper printouts from 6 different reservations.

If you really want to own your travel itinerary and you own an iPhone, consider buying the “TravelTracker – with Tripit” iPhone app. While everything about TripIt is completely free, this app costs $19.99.

MobilePress Allows Readers to Read On the Go

As a fan of all things mobile, I have been continually frustrated by websites that do not render a mobile friendly version of their sites. Let’s be honest, I’ve been frustrated by me not rendering a mobile friendly version. As a Blackberry user, I’ve been tormented by the inadequacy of the mobile browser that has been supplied on handsets for a long time. Each new iteration of the Blackberry OS improves the browser, but nothing has been breakout. (That said, I hear the new OS 4.6 which is shipping with Blackberry Bolds and Blackberry Storms is quite nice, but I have not been able to independently confirm).

Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone

Captured with Safari 3 Simulating the iPhone

Fortunately, now you can read this site on most mobile web browsers including the iPhone (with iPhone bling!), Opera Mini, Internet Explorer for Windows Mobile as well as Blackberry and generic mobile browsers. This thanks to a WordPress plugin called MobilePress. I highly recommend it as a must have for every blogger who wants or needs their blog accessible to mobile users (they are becoming fairly common place).

The only hitch seems to be on the Blackberry browser (<=OS 4.5). You must disable javascript support in your Blackberry Browser configuration. Failing to do this will cause most sites that load javascript/AJAX libraries to spin unendingly and eat up your device memory. The only way to solve this is to pop the battery.

Blackberry Provides a Mobile Device Too!

Since the iPhone came out a year and a half ago, mobile app development has gone into an iPhone-only mode of development. Mostly. The web interface has made it much more conducive to providing a real rich environment for web applications and now that the iPhone 3G has arrived, apps are being produced left and right.

It’s all great, except Apple still has a minority market share in mobile devices. By mobile device, I am referring to smart phones: iPhone, Treo, Blackberry, etc.

In DC, we have a running joke about the iPhone. In DC the preference for a smartphone is a Blackberry. When I get on the Metro, I look around and everyone is fiddling on their Blackberries.

It’s a matter of utility and practicality.

In San Francisco, no one goes without an iPhone, but in DC iPhones are far more scarce.

Yet, mobile application development seems to trend toward iPhones. While iPhone rich applications are great for the “bling” factor, they represent a small minority of customers in the global market that actually can utilize these interfaces.

In my opinion, developers can work within the limitations imposed by RIM to provide rich Blackberry equivalents to their apps. The Facebook App for Blackberry is a shining example of great Blackberry app that has been developed within the context of the RIM framework.

It can be done. It should be done.

I was pitched an iPhone app by a PR guy yesterday and when I scolded him for having an iPhone app and not a Blackberry app as well, he corrected me and gave me access to their prior-released Blackberry version. After fiddling around with it for 30 mins, I realized it just doesn’t work. Why are companies putting out half-assed products?

The Blackberry Storm is coming out, by all accounts, in the next 2-3 weeks and I’ll be one getting it as soon as it comes out. Why? Because Blackberry users know our product sucks. But, we need it. It’s utility. It’s functional. It’s the hub of our digital lives. The Storm will theoretically change that and that is great.

In the meantime, mobile app developers have to recognize the market share and not take an elitist perspective that they can somehow push users to the sexier platform. Because in DC, purchasers don’t care about sexiness. They care about utility. I imagine this city is not alone in that regard.