Will iPhone apps change the future of city wayfinding?

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Exploring unknown cities for business or pleasure, for me, is always a joyful experience, walking around and getting into the city will enlighten your vision and makes you connect to the culture. Visiting the beautiful and exciting elements a city has to offer makes your trip an unforgettable visit. Getting information on how to get around in a city is essential for easy orientation and navigation.

Actually one of the most important factors that you will remember after visiting a city is how did you get around.

What items did you use to navigate through a city? How did public transport interacts with the navigation possibilities that you have? What was your feeling and with the items you used to navigate and did you find your way? Where did you get your information from and was it sufficient enough?

All of these questions make or break a your vision on city exploration.

Exploring a unknown city

When visiting a city there are different ways you can get there and after arriving you need to know where you are in the spatial environment in order to locate yourself and make decisions on where to go next. The provided information at that point of entry is critical for easy city exploration, if the provided information is insufficient, you might turn the wrong way and not finding the locations you want or need to visit. Going the wrong way increases feelings of disorientation, distraction and anxiety. The feeling that you are loosing time on exploring a city trip is one of the worst psychological emotions you experience.

City information

When visiting a new city is can be useful to check the cities website and obtain information about:

  • Public transport and available connections between the various transportation services
  • Getting a map of the city and locate your hotel, maybe even plan a trip from your city point to entry to the hotel
  • Maybe plan your trip via google maps and mark all the points your want to visit
  • Opening hours of the facilities you want to visit

I’m that kind of guy that doesn’t do any of the suggested items as described above… I just try to explore the city using my senses and trying to find where I need to go next. Sometimes this is a great and joyful experience, sometimes it causes disorientation and arguments with the people I travel with at that time.

Orientation and navigation in an unknown city

When using your senses to guide yourself in a unknown environment you need eye-level directional information and possibly a map to locate and navigate through the city. City often uses directional signs on streets to point you in the right direction and sometimes information panels are providing you with an orientation overview. In future posts I will go deeper into pedestrian navigation and city wayfinding. Other forms of navigation is through a mobile phone powered with for instance Google Maps or specific applications enhanced to bring you information about the city you want to visit.

City marketing and visitors information

As city marketing is the nr. 1 way of promoting your city, providing information to the visitors is also part of the branding strategy. Currently many cities worldwide are producing mobile applications to improve the visitors experience and this will make it easier to navigate through a city. I have compiled a list of iPhone applications which will let you navigation through a city using your own personal map.

iPhone apps for city orientation and navigation


iPhone wayfinding app walkbrightonThe London based information design company Applied Information Group started a project in London several years ago names: Legible London, this project aimed at pedestrian wayfinding in the heart of London to release the stress on public transport and enhance the user experience. AIG rolled out a pilot and the case is very strong, people are using it with ease and it will change the way at city wayfinding completely.

iPhone wayfinding app walkbrightonIn Brighton AIG also adapted the wayfinding system and developed an iPhone application to support the pedestrian wayfinding system, named WalkBrighton. Using the same look and feel as the hardware allowing the two systems works seamlessly together informing you where you are and where you want to go. Looking forward visiting Brighton to use the system in real life.

Details of the application:
Crossings, railings, ramps and footpaths are shown in detail, as well as individual shops, bars and public services. 3D illustrations of key landmarks help you place yourself in the map just one of many features that makes this one of the best-looking and most user-friendly maps you will see on the iPhone

Additional information:

Infomaps Amsterdam

iPhone wayfinding app infomaps AmsterdamThe city of Amsterdam has much to explore but getting around in a circular city can be hard. This application from Infomaps changes the way you can interact in public transport, providing you with the up-to-date information about

The application comes in two versions:
Infomaps Amsterdam:Tourist guide with 130 hotspots linked to public Tram-, Metro- and Railway connections
Metro Amsterdam: Travel fast and easy with Metro Amsterdam. With a custom made map and list view of all 4 Metro lines

Additional information:

Holland, Amsterdam

iPhone wayfinding app holland, amsterdamThe Amsterdam Mobile Guide provides users with striking images and accurate descriptions of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions, including restaurants and bars, sights, hotels, shops and much more. Compiled with the on-the-go traveler in mind, the Amsterdam Mobile Guide highlights the very best Amsterdam has to offer, helping travelers discover local favorites while allowing travelers to contact any venue by phone, email or website – or launch a Google map – directly from the application.

iPhone wayfinding app holland, amsterdamFind the best venues to enjoy on your trip to Amsterdam and read about them on-the-go. Each entry in the Amsterdam Mobile Guide includes a striking image, accurate description, contact information, and a map. Call, email, or browse the venue’s website directly from the app. Or launch the Google Maps application from the venue page to receive directions from your current location.

Additional information:


iPhone wayfinding app OffMapsOffMaps is an iPhone application that you can use for navigation through a city, you can download maps of area’s you are going to and use the maps without a wifi connection. The latest version also includes routes, you can set up directions before visiting the area and use the route as you go.

OffMaps uses OpenStreetMaps that include a lot more information than simple road maps: from ATMs and train stations to restaurants and pubs.

Additional information:

Nearest Tube New York

iPhone wayfinding app Nearest Tube London, New YorkNearest Tube is one of the first augmented reality iPhone apps available. The app is basically of a simple concept, point your iPhone into the environment and the app will show you where the nearest tube station. Available for many cities such as New York, London, Barcelona, San Fransisco, Chicago, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo and many more. Check the website of Acrossair for more information.

Additional information:

London Tube (subway)

iPhone London tube subway wayfindingLondon Tube is a comprehensive guide to travelling through London. It includes official subway maps. London Tube map is licensed by Presselite from Transport for London (TfL).

The iPhone app includes many features such as travel planning, detailed maps of almost every lines available, push notifications for real time Tube alerts, bookmark manager and much more. Check the website for specific details of the city wayfinding iPhone app.

Additional details:

Various other suppliers for travel, orientation city maps

There are several iPhone app available for simple orientation and navigation for many cities worldwide, please check the following websites for more information:


I have installed and tested many of the above mentioned iPhone apps for city wayfinding and I believe the real added value is real time walking around where the iPhone app shows you where you are and where you are going to. My personal favorite is WalkBrighton for its clear and straightforward map design, it offers both in functionality and navigation great results.

Future of city wayfinding

So tell me…
Do you use or will you use these apps to travel around in a city?
Will mobile applications be the future of city exploration?

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