Field Trip (Android) review: Field Trip (Android)

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Field Trip has a beautiful interface and a great assortment of content partners.

The Bad The map view can be overwhelming; it needs to do a better job of sorting recommendations.

The Bottom Line For now, Field Trip is probably best viewed as a fun and interesting novelty, not a local-search necessity.

Free

8.2 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 10.0
  • Features and Support 8.0
  • Interface 9.0
  • Performance 7.0

Developed by Google, Field Trip is essentially a pocket guide to interesting and fun things around you, whether they be restaurants, museums, shops, or events. Because it pulls data from dozens of different sources, it offers a wide variety of recommendations of things for you to visit, or at the very least, read about.

First thing you need to know about Field Trip is where its recommendations come from. The app taps into popular Web-based publications such as Thrillist, Zagat, Eater, Inhabitat, and Cool Hunting. Anytime it recognizes a post from one these sources as pertaining to your location, it gives you a recommendation in the form of a card. These cards show you info like the source of the post, its date, a snippet of copy, and even an exact location mentioned. Oh, and cards come in seven different categories, such as Architecture, Food, Outdoor Art, and Offers.

The most basic way to use Field Trip is to fire it up and actively browse through recommendations. You can see them in list form or on a map, though I found the map to be completely overwhelming. For instance, here in the heart of San Francisco, the map plotted out hundreds of color-coded flags in my immediate vicinity, which, as you can imagine, was difficult to parse. And with seven different colors corresponding to seven different content categories, I had almost no chance of deciphering the information before me. Thus, I found Field Trip's Nearby and Recent lists to be a lot more palatable.

The other way to use Field Trip is with notifications. Turn them on, and Field Trip rings whenever it finds something interesting nearby. If you're a curious traveler, you can crank up the notifications level to "Explore" and watch as the recommendations pour in. Otherwise, you can dial it down to "Feeling Lucky" or turn notifications off altogether. While the notifications do use some extra battery power, I found them to be a much more exciting way to interface with Field Trip. I liked how a few popped up whenever I entered a new city or neighborhood, but at the same time, I can see how that might get annoying, especially for locals who know the area pretty well. And not all of Field Trip's notifications are useful.

Whether you're actively browsing through Field Trip's listings or waiting for it to push out notifications, you're going to get mixed results, as far as interesting posts go. One the one hand, I found tons of interesting and useful information about restaurants, concerts, local art installations, and architectural marvels nearby. But on the other hand, much of that useful information was sprinkled between completely irrelevant and useless listings. For instance, I got a notification for a small event that occurred near my location more than two years ago. Also, I saw more than a few posts about seemingly random events throughout history. The good thing is that Field Trip lets you help calibrate its recommendations. You can vote cards up or down, and even change the settings for individual publications. This is something you absolutely must do in order to improve your experience.

Overall, I am impressed with Field Trip. It's beautifully designed, and relatively easy to use. Plus, it comes with a great assortment of content partners and nifty features like text-to-speech, which can read your cards aloud. While it still has a lot of work to do as far as calibrating its recommendations, I do think it can be a fun source of interesting information, especially for curious tourists. That said, it's certainly not a necessity for local explorers at this point. However, considering Google's well-documented interest in local search, you can bet the company will put the work in and show us some massive improvements in the next version.

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