[App Fridays] This official audio tour app for Incredible India has potential (but needs work)Jubin Mehta
Built from Mumbai, AudioCompass is a mobile audio guide for destinations in India. AudioCompass is backed by Blume Ventures and a group of angel investors. The founders have a background in the space and the fact that they started offline with on-the-ground experience gives them strong domain knowledge and also probably a strong reason why the venture was backed. They pounced on the opportunity with mobile early and the app claims to have been recognized as the official audio tour app of Incredible India (Ministry of Tourism has its own app as well). It is the official audio guide provider at UNESCO sites such as the Taj Mahal, and has been recently recognized by Conde Nast Traveller India as one of the 15 ideas shaking up India's travel scene. We had earlier written about the app and on their recent new version launch, we've decided to do a review.
The idea: There is definitely a need for such a product in India. Tourism is on a high and with more foreigners coming into India, audio guides will be picked up as more and more state tourism departments push. A freemium business model also works and if there is an in-destination offline push (we are not sure if some one informs a traveller about the app at the destination), the traction can be more.
The content: AudioCompass currently has over 35 destinations and 900+ points of interest. Each audio clip is free for upto 20 seconds after which the user needs to pay (a user can open up a destination for INR 100 to 300). The fact that the audio clip is made keeping the context in mind is helpful. For instance, a clip about Kerala has the accent of a local person (and it feels genuine) makes a big difference in giving the user a real experience.
What doesn't work:
UX, UX and the UX: I tested out the app on three android devices- two Moto G's and a Karbonn phone. The claim on the opening screen itself is misleading- the app took more than 10 seconds to load on every attempt.
Once the app has loaded, I'm taken to a screen which has four well thought out options- Nerby, Explore, Map and Downloads. What I don't appreciate is that the app has an auto audio which it starts playing to instruct. A visual guide would be more preferable. And on the main navigation page, the 'downloads' tab is awkwardly positioned at the top. This issue was faced with the Moto G.
The fact that I need to tap on menu options at the top is also a negative in terms of experience because I've been used to 'swipe'. It is natural for me to swipe from 'Nearby' to 'Explore' to 'Map'... I haven't yet made an in app purchase but it would be nice to see a sample destination to know exactly what I can expect on purchase.
AudioCompass has more than 5000 downloads on Android at the moment which means that discovery and growth has been a problem to an extent. The official partnerships are a big plus which AudioCompass needs to leverage if the app is positioned as mobile only audio guide. The Taj Mahal is visited by nearly 3 million times every year and this shows the potential of the market. Their are other apps from Tocha and Guiddoo who are also there in the same space and much bigger players are getting activated now which means AudioCompass will need to be quick on its toes to gain more traction.