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Cambodia forum

Angkor App for iPhone. Good idea?

Posted by DuncanStuart on 9/2/2010 at 06:51

I've just read the review of the Travelfish iPhone app which acts as a guide around Angkor and Siem Reap - and I came away somewhat depressed. My feeling is that this kind of thing will severely dent the livelihoods of local guides and will in that respect set locals back - not forward. The second feeling was purely one of personal taste rather than ethical. I'm picturing young backpackers walking round with their bloody iPhone, instead of walking around with their eyes wide open to the amazement. How do others see it?

#1 DuncanStuart has been a member since 22/9/2009. Posts: 32

Posted by somtam2000 on 9/2/2010 at 08:36 admin

Hi Duncan,

I replied to you on Twitter, but not sure if you saw that.

For others, the review Duncan is referring to is here, by the smart cookies at Make Travel Fair.

Obviously, we're disappointed to hear you found the Angkor App a depressing product, but as I said on Twitter, regarding your concerns for the local guiding industry, I fail to see the difference between the App and a guidebook -- or even this website for that matter.

Travelfish is all about giving travellers information to help them get the most out of their trip. Be it on the web, in our PDF guides of the iPhone app. We make no apologies for that.

Lots of local businesses benefit by being listed in the App -- and it includes organisations that we think are doing particularly noteworthy work in Cambodia. And while we don't recommend specific guides, we do mention when we think a guide would be appropriate.

To your point of travellers walking around with their nose stuck in the App - I can't see how that is any different to them walking around with a guidebook, copy of Canby etc.

By the sound of things, you haven't actually seen the App, as if you had you'd be aware that we list a range of Angkor's sites that are not mentioned in any of the other resources -- so "sending people down the same beaten path" is a bit off the mark.

Anyway, would be interested to hear how you see this impacting on guides livelihoods more than say a traditional guidebook or website.


#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,652
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Posted by DuncanStuart on 9/2/2010 at 08:51

Yeah - I know where you're coming from - and on most points I scarcely disagree. In principle I love the digitisation of information, the sheer accessibility, wirelessly, of anything and everything. I love, for example that I can sent an email to the school we support in Cambodia (Savong's School) and despite lack of electricity and phone lines they can reply. Brilliant. Can't stop mobile technology.

But thanks to the ubiquity and convenience of iPhones, I think the App will begin to more seriously dent the livelihoods of tour guides in a way that books do to only a limited extent - thanks to their very clumsiness. By and alrge iPhone makes the user's world a better, easier place - but my first point is that this, inevitably, will come at the expense of the guides. What alerted me to this was seeing the seller of film at these sites - struggling to do business during the years we all went digital. The advantages of new technologies usually come at the cost of those who cannot afford them. I just think that the iPhone app is going to do the same here.

My point about personal taste. On that note I'm just a classic middle aged grump. But it does amaze me to see tourists at sites such as Angkor, wearing their white earbuds - aurally cocooning themselves from reality: the local sounds, the chants, the insects, birds etc - so they can listen to their favourite hits. That's their right, sure, but are they enjoying the best of Angkor? I doubt it.

Finally, while Travelfish provides a lively online forum - the material via an app is fundamentally going to be edited, standardised in format, and condensed (twitter like) to fit on the small screen. As such, everyone with an iPhone is going to get the same basic experience - a somewhat homogenised iGuide experience. that's their right, can't deny that. But that homogenisation is precisely why I don't go to Disneyland, and is precisely why I refrain from walking around with LonelyPlanet or any other guide - much as I respect them and, along with TravelFish, do my homework from them.

#3 DuncanStuart has been a member since 22/9/2009. Posts: 32

Posted by DuncanStuart on 9/2/2010 at 09:11

PS. By "same beaten path" I mean iPhone users will be, of course, bumping into each other. It may be a different beaten path to the Frommers Path or the beaten path of Lonely Planet.

PPS. Trying not to sound grumpy or neanderthal here. But tourists really need to think about the technology they adopt. For me - travel got better on the days I put away my camera and came out from hiding behind the lens.

PPS. Didn't get Twitter reply (?) but am now happily a TF Follower on Twitter. You run a cool service overall.

#4 DuncanStuart has been a member since 22/9/2009. Posts: 32

Posted by somtam2000 on 9/2/2010 at 09:22 admin

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're talking about something off the base of a review - you've not actually seen and tried the app for yourself?

I think, if anything, the App will see more people using guides.

For example, and as I mentioned earlier, it includes coverage of a number of sites that are not on the "vanilla circuit". People who endeavour to visit somewhere like Banteay Thom for example, will, most likely engage a guide (unless they're going to tramp cross-country to find it). It includes coverage of places like Kompong Phluk and Kompong Khleang which, as you probably know require at least the engagement of a tuk tuk and boat -- if not a guide.

Before you say, yeah but they're all in the guidebooks anyway, the difference between the App and say a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide is that when a traveller is trying to decide what to do with a spare day, they can read a droll monotone par in a guidebook and think, "ahh sounds like a waste of dosh, let's just go hang out in Angkor again" or, they can look at it on the App, see the full colour photo for the attraction in question and the related photo gallery, see where it is on the map, get all inspired and think, "yeah that sounds cool, lets do it".

Who benefits?

Don't a lot of the film-vendors now sell flashcards?!


#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,652
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Posted by somtam2000 on 9/2/2010 at 09:27 admin

Just saw your other message - thanks glad you like the service.

Re the beaten path, ok I missunderstood, but again would say there are so many points of interest listed that I can't imagine any one trail is going to be all that well trodden.

Anyway, on this note I'll step aside and see what others have to say.


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Posted by DuncanStuart on 9/2/2010 at 09:31

For sure. Perhaps my mis-apprehensions about the Application are because I read the review (which put me off for reasons I explained) and I didn't tour around the product itself. (A bit like reading a tour guide and not going to the temple that got written about!)

Somtam - delete my posts if you feel I'm being a party pooper here. I don't want to put people off a good thing.

re flashcards. Seriously, do you think the poorer families can afford to stock flashcards for sale?

Now I won't keep replying to every comment made on this discussion. If you prefer to take it down, by all means, I won't be offended. Besides there are plenty of young, hip, iPhone toting fans who'll set me straight. I'm just saying that Marshall McLuhan was right: every new technology has an impact that is unintended. Both good and bad.

#7 DuncanStuart has been a member since 22/9/2009. Posts: 32

Posted by Este on 12/2/2010 at 12:10

With respect, the original poster is talking horse s**t!

I have an iPhone and have the Angkor app. It's ridiculous to suggest it will affect guides, I didn't even take my phone with me to the temples. It isn't a substitute for a guide, there isn't anywhere near enough information in it for that. It's a basic guide, a starting point and something with helpful pointers. Did I get the same experience as every other app user? I doubt it, but in any case everyone wants to see a range of temples, to a certain extent we're a getting the same experience.

It's no different to a guide book.

As for the technology issues, life moves on. Those that adapt will survive, those that don't, wont. I e seen hawkers selling batteries and SD memory cards in place of them selling old film 10 years ago.

I don't see any valid concerns about an iPhone app. It just sounds like another case of travel snobbery to me and more complaining from older tourists who can't stand it when a previously unknown destination becomes popular. The same people who moan that everything was better in their day.

Get an iPhone and embrace the 21st century. You can even download a Khmer language app to help you communicate with the locals.

#8 Este has been a member since 12/2/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by DuncanStuart on 12/2/2010 at 14:40

Wow - you sound really cross with me. FYI, I'm pretty wired thanks. Partner and I share an iPhone, read about the product on Twitter, and already communicate a great deal with locals thanks. (Just spent an hour on a skype call to Cambodia.)

I love the fact that you're using the language app to communicate more with locals - not less. Good outcome. I hope it works that way for most iPhone users. My fear is that the opposite will generally occur however -the earbud cocoon factor - and by voicing my fear I seem to have made you angy. Apologies.

#9 DuncanStuart has been a member since 22/9/2009. Posts: 32

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