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Nextstop, an online activity guide that launched earlier this year, is now offering an iPhone version that lets users find cool activities nearby.
San Francisco-based Nextstop competes with many other activity guides by trying to provide information in the most accessible and fun way. The iPhone site (yes, it’s a mobile website, not an application downloaded from Apple’s App Store) certainly delivers on that front. When you open it, the site lists a bunch of nearby attractions. You can click down on one, then scroll through all of them in a slideshow.
The interface is slick and fast — there were almost no loading delays when the Nextstop team demonstrated the app using office WiFi, and it was only a little slower when I tried it on a 3G cellular network. It’s also easy to browse different activity guides, or even write a short recommendation for wherever you are (Nextstop uses GPS to guess your location, and users can write recommendations that are only a couple of sentences long, which is more doable than a lengthy review on an iPhone).
Nextstop’s founders told me they chose to run their iPhone service as a website rather than a downloadable app because they didn’t want to be slowed down by the App Store approval process and found they could deliver as rich an experience building a mobile website as they could with an app. The one exception was the ability to upload photos taken on your iPhone, so they built a specific app for that — when you try to upload a photo for an activity recommendation, Nextstop will ask you to download the camera app, and once it’s downloaded Nextstop transitions pretty smoothly from the website to the iPhone app and back to the website. Aside from the camera functionality, Nextstop can update and improve its mobile site without Apple’s oversight.
Most iPhone users are used to thinking in terms of apps. But Nextstop co-founder Adrian Graham argues that the site has the richness and speed of a native app — in fact, it’s arguably better since you don’t have to close the app and jump into the Safari mobile browser when you click on an external link. Graham noted that Nextstop already gets a fair amount of iPhone traffic to its non-iPhone optimized site, so this also presents a better experience to those mobile visitors.
There’s an educational component, of sorts, too — I noticed that the Nextstop iPhone site has a little reminder at the bottom saying that you can add a bookmark to your home screen, making it as easy to access as an app. Co-founder Carl Sjogreen also noted that Google has been pushing for more mobile websites, rather than downloadable apps. Not only have its executives made statements to that effect, but the Google iPhone app is itself little more than a bunch of links to different mobile websites.
“We’re early adopters, but we’re not standing alone,” Sjogreen said.
Nextstop is self-funded, and eventually plans to make money through a combination of advertising and premium services.
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