Google on Thursday launched a new app for Android smartphones called “Field Trip,” which automatically gives users location-based information, everything from the history of a local landmark to nearby food and events deals and details to local music shops and concerts.
The app sends this information to the front of the user’s smartphone screen in the form of alerts, which a user can then click on to expand for more information. But the main advantage Google is pushing is that the Field Trip app automatically detects where a user is with their phone and sends them the information unprompted.
Google obtains this information from a variety of sources online, including its own company-owned Zagat reviews and listings, local listing site Thrillist, esoteric landmark encyclopedia Atlas Obscura, music website Songkick and arts and entertainment listing site Flavorpill, as well as numerous other websites and companies.
“Field Trip enables serendipitous discovery of interesting places, events and stories all around you,” said John Hanke, a Google vice president of product management, in a statement to TPM. “We hope you never stop exploring.”
Here are Google screenshots of the Field Trip app:
Google released the following video ad for the Field Trip app on Thursday:
Users can adjust the frequency and types of information they receive from the app, which detects a user’s location using nearby cell tower triangulation.
The app is Android only for now and free to download Google Play, but Google says that it’s “Coming soon to iOS,” that is, Apple devices, presumably the iPhone (as the app is optimized for smartphone screens at the moment), and interested Apple device owners can sign-up to receive notice on Google’s separate Field Trip website.
When the app does come to iOS, the question is whether or not it will use Apple’s new in-house mapping product, Apple Maps, which replaced Google Maps on the new version of Apple’s mobile software, iOS 6, and has been resoundingly criticized by many users around the globe for its myriad inaccuracies and strange software bugs.
The other option is that Google could provide a running version of Google Maps within the Field Trip app. This could be anything from just a mobile version of Google’s own website to the full, old version of Google Maps that was running on the iPhone prior to Apple’s ejection, to a new version of Google Maps specifically optimized for Apple devices that is reportedly in the works.
Apple’s developer review guidelines don’t specifically prohibit developers from embedding entire separate map services or re-routing guidelines, which is why there is already (and has always been) a proliferation of other competing mobile map apps in the Apple App Store, including apps from Microsoft Bing, AOL Mapquest and Garmin.
Still Apple does offer and encourage app developers to use its “Map Kit framework,” which relies on Apple Maps in iOS 6.
And even if Google sneaks Google Maps back onto iOS 6 in the form of the Field Trip app, Apple’s tight device rules prevent users from switching any other maps app outside of Apple Maps to be the default one on Apple devices, meaning that users will still have to open all address links that they are emailed or access in other apps through Apple Maps.
Google declined to provide any information on what type of mapping service the Field Trip for iOS app would use when it comes to iOS 6.
Many Apple device users have clamored for Apple and Google to return the Google Maps app, which came as the default on the iPhone since 2007 and the iPad since it was unveiled in 2010. But Apple booted Google Maps and Google’s default YouTube app from its new iOS 6 software when it was released on September 19, in moves widely viewed as strategic as Apple and Google’s global competition in mobile devices and debates intensifies. Google’s deal to provide Google Maps on Apple’s device reportedly still had one year left on it when Apple kicked Google Maps off, allegedly over Google’s refusal to provide voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation features on Apple devices.