[App Friday] This travel planner app lets your followers track your journey, relive your adventures

Polarsteps, an Amsterdam-based app, has a simple user interface and a pretty good collection of travel destinations across Europe. But asking for location access at all times could turn away a few potential users.
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It may not be the best time to travel, what with a deadly virus and its variants looking for hosts. But with the worldwide roll out of vaccines, and the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, we know travelling for pleasure will soon be a reality again. 

And if you are one of those who likes to document every place you have been to, and reflect on all your travel experiences by the minute long after a holiday, then we have just the app for you in Polarsteps - an app that claims to help you plan, track, and relive your adventures. 

The app, run out of Amsterdam, was launched in 2015 when one of its co-founders, Niek Bokkers, was on a sailing trip and wanted his family to stay updated about his trip. 

Polarsteps’ concept is simple - once you start a trip, the app will sync with the GPS on your phone, and track your movements throughout the trip. The app, available on both iOS and Android, has seen over a million downloads so far, and has a 4.7 rating, according to data available on Google PlayStore.

How does it work?

Once downloaded, the app asks you to either sign up with a Facebook account or an email id. Once logged in, the app displays a disclaimer claiming to only use an additional 4 percent of your phone battery. 

The app also requests for access to your GPS at all times to track your movements while you are travelling. For those worrying about privacy, there is a ‘Maybe later’ option tucked away on the top right corner if you want to skip this.

The first few steps after logging in into PolarSteps. Credit: YourStory Design

The next step takes you to your profile page where you add your username and city, and a short bio. This page also lets you choose to keep your account private or public. A private account lets only your followers see your travel updates. 

The app’s user interface is simple and fuss-free. The top half of the page sees a world map, with your profile picture, your city, and tabs that show your followers and accounts you follow. 

The top right corner has a tab ‘a ‘+’ to add new trips. You can choose to start a trip from your current location, when you start your journey, or after reaching your destination. And each of these trips can be customised with a cover photo, name, a small summary, and start and end dates of the trip. 

This is where you need to allow the app to sync with your GPS if you want it to track every step of your trip. You could choose to keep track all the time or only when using the app. 

The problem with choosing the latter is that you then have to turn on the app manually every time you are changing locations or driving to a new place within your destination. However, once the trip ends, the tracker disables automatically. Privacy settings can be customised every trip.

One great advantage for adventurous travellers is that Polarsteps does not mandate a constant internet connection to function smoothly. In its offline mode, the app continues to track your location using GPS, and your pictures and videos will get automatically saved. The data gets published once there is a stable internet connection. 

Trip Summary (left) gives an option to turn on the travel tracker

The app lets you follow travellers with public accounts who have blogged and vlogged through every step of their travel. 

A bar at the bottom has a tab called ‘Guides’ which has various location suggestions and things to do. There is also a search icon which helps in exploring activities and other travellers’ trip updates. This could help you plan your next trip, and explore new destinations. 

The app also enables its users to share their trips on Facebook, WhatsApp and a few other social media platforms. It is not necessary to have a Polarsteps account to view these updates through the link. 

Verdict

With its simple in design interface, the app is easy for users to navigate. Travel writers and vloggersare increasingly taking to the app for its sheer ease of use. 

However, revealing one’s location at all times is something not every user is keen to do. The app does not specifically mention how it is going to use/share this data. 


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Edited by Anju Narayanan