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AroundMe: What's Out There?

AroundMe 4

One of the perks of the job is the variety of places you get to visit but, finding your way around is not always easy, especially when you have limited time. New places offer loads of exciting possibilities, but they also present challenges to the unacquainted. Something as simple as finding a cash machine can often turn into a ramble through a maze of back alleys filled with troubling figures and outstretched hands; instead of getting cash, you’re giving it away.

However, there is a simple solution so long as you have a smartphone (in this case, an iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows Phone). AroundMe is an app developed for just these lost-in-a-strange-place situations – handy for anyone who regularly spends time in new places and wants to finally ditch the bulky Lonely Planet in a dumpster.

Just select the type of establishment you’re looking for – bar, hospital, bank – and find the one nearest you. It’s that simple. In fact, it was the simplicity of AroundMe that made TIME magazine call it a “must-carry,” when it ranked the app No. 2 on its 2008 list of Top 10 iPhone Apps.

Using geolocation technology, AroundMe allows you to search for nearby restaurants, hospitals, cash machines, even car parks – just about anything you could wish for. And all of the information is listed based on distance from your location…(we’re talking yards and meters away).

When AroundMe hit No.2 on TIME’s list in 2008, the app was just in its infancy – created that same year by Italian software developer Marco Pifferi. It was first called “Attorno a Me,” which was quickly translated into “AroundMe” to take advantage of the large English-language market. But its developers didn’t let that early recognition get to their heads. It hasn’t stopped growing or adding new features since. Pifferi has attributed the app’s success to its simplicity, though he’s quick to point out just how much goes into making the app so easy to use.

AroundMe 1“When it comes to locating a bar, a gas station or just about any kind of business that’s even a few feet from the user, AroundMe is as simple as it gets,” says Pifferi. “But behind that simplicity is a highly complex functionality that is built on multiple databases, in ten languages and local contexts, to give you handy, helpful results in milliseconds, no matter where you are.”

AroundMe now boast 6 million unique users and 27 million searches monthly. It’s available in over 200 countries, includes more than 19,000 cities, and can operate in 11 different languages.

The app utilizes simple icons – a bag of gold (banks), a martini glass (bars), a coffee cup (coffee shops), a nurse’s cap (hospitals) – to allow users to quickly find the closest options matching the criteria. Touch the bag of gold and you get taken to the next page with a list of all the banks nearest your location. Select the martini glass, and you’ve got all the bars you could hope for listed by distance on your screen.

Not only that, but you can now choose from three viewing modes. Upon selecting a category, you’ll be taken initially to the traditional list, a vertical listing of the closest options, their addresses and the distance from your location. But if you’re more of a navigator by trade – if you like to see your course plotted out on a chart – you can also take a look at your choices pinned out on GoogleMaps. Newest of all, is the “Live View” function, which provides stable and precise display of nearby shops and restaurants as you move along – the screen essentially tracking your movement and reflecting back all of the nearby options as you pass by.

AroundMe has also established partnerships with Booking.com (the hotel-booking site), OpenTable.com (the restaurant-reservation site), and FourSquare.com (the events and attractions site) to help users quickly take advantage of anything that strikes their fancy.

AroundMe 3In another major blow to Lonely Planet and Fodor’s, the app’s “Nearby” function now lists places of interest, museums, geographical locations, and other attractions – each linked to their Wikipedia pages so that users can brush up on their Catalan Modernist architecture as they stroll around Barcelona.

Finally, as with anything computer-based these days, there’s a “Favourites” tab. Anywhere you go, you can track your favourite spots, so that next time you’re in Florence, you can remember where to find that really fun club you stumbled out of at 4 a.m. … And I suppose you could always use it again later when you’re searching desperately for the nearest pharmacy.

While the app works best in larger cities, some users have complained about its functionality in smaller settings. And as businesses rise and fall (especially in the restaurant industry), some listings fall behind and need to be updated to reflect what is currently occupying the space. The former can be rectified slowly but surely through AroundMe’s continual expansion of its system; the latter appears to be something relatively unavoidable, as things change constantly and there’s no manner with which all of that information can be instantly updated.

AroundMe is a free app produced by Attorno a Me S.R.L. It is headquartered Turin, Italy, with an office in San Francisco, California. Visit the company’s website and learn more by clicking here.

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