One of the problems with traveling these days is the lack of a centralized real time travel resource at your fingertip. Your at the airport, your flight is canceled, you are placed on hold with customer service or you wait in long lines to re-book. You are then at the mercy of an overworked agent who might not offer you all of the possible flights possibilities. Wouldn't be helpful to have all of that information at your fingertips when you reach the head of the phone or people queue? Windows Mobile is the perfect platform to provide you with this type of information, and all you need the right application. MobiMate, Inc., a wireless application service provider, whose focus is serving business travelers throughout their travel experience, developed such an application: WorldMate 2006. The cancelled flight scenario is just one of many traveling challenges which WorldMate 2006 can help with. I just took a 12 day vacation to Scotland with it in hand. Let's see how well it supported me!
The installation is accomplished on the PC using ActiveSync.
The PC installation splash screen. There are no special user requirements for the setup of WorldMate 2006.
The Windows Mobile 5.0 installation screen. WorldMate 2006 is a large program at 2888KB and is suitable for storage card installation.
WorldMate 2006 provides 14 travel related services:
World clocks with alarm function
Global weather forecasts using The Weather Channel
Global weather satellite imagery using The Weather Channel
Travel itinerary manager
Real time flight status using FlightStats
Comprehensive flight schedules using the Official Airline Guide (OAG)
Currency converter with online exchange rate update
English and metric measurement converter
Clothing size converter
Global telephone dialing code guide
Global tax and tip calculator
Packing list organizer
World day/night map
Synchronization with the WorldMate desktop companion
The world clock and alarm display. The user interface uses icons or Windows Mobile 5.0 soft keys to navigate between services.
WorldMate 2006 provides 5 day forecasts for major cities worldwide from The Weather Channel.
The Global weather satellite imagery display from The Weather Channel provides 6 different animated weather maps.
The Doppler radar weather map of the U.S. in zoom mode is a little blurry but useable. This mode places the display in landscape.
The itinerary manager allows for the input of flight, car rental, hotel, cruise, train and meeting information.
The ability to export itinerary entries to the Windows Mobile calendar database can be performed selectively.
The flight information can be entered manually or imported via the flight schedule service. Real time flight status can also viewed by using the update button. Unfortunately the time entries are not based on time zone, this creates a calendar nightmare when the Windows Mobile time zone is modified. A workaround to this problem is to use the WebIs' Toolbox 3 which contains a function to correct appointment tis in different time zones.
The real time flight status service displays flight information from many different airlines. In this example the search was for United Airlines flight 918 from Washington Dulles (IAD) to London Heathrow (LHR), however, the display only provided the first leg of flight 918 which is from San Diego (SAN) to Washington Dulles (IAD). MobiMate support is aware of the problem and they are fixing it in a future release. An excellent feature of the flight status service is the ability to export the flight information to the itinerary service thus simplifying entry.
The flight schedule search screen.
The OAG database is the most complete source of worldwide flight information and WorldMate 2006 provides a comprehensive display of choices, the ability to sort by column like duration (screen shot on right) simplifies the selection process.
Once a choice is made, real time flight information can be added via the update function and the data can be exported to the itinerary service.
The currency converter service displays 3 currencies simultaneously and provides online updates of foreign exchange rates.
The measurement converter provides the basic conversions between the English and metric systems.
The Global telephone dialing code guide provides prefixes for all countries and area codes for the U.S. and Canada. The Greenwich Mean Time offset is also displayed.
The clothing converter service provides a guideline of clothing sizes between the US, Europe, the UK, and Japan.
The tip and tax calculator provides guidelines and weather the tip and tax are generally included in the bill. A very useful feature!
The packing list service provides a check list of items to take on a trip.
The world day/night map provides a view based on the selected city.
The MobiMate WorldMate 2006 is a very complete traveling companion. It does not currently support the Windows Mobile landscape mode and you must have an internet connection to utilizes the online services.
MobiMate provides a .pdf manual for WorldMate 2006 which provides a good overview of the product features. An FAQ can be found here. MobiMate provides support via a web based email form found here. When I contacted support about the multi stop flight status issue, I recieved a response within 24 hours.
MobiMate also provides a Windows application WorldMate Desktop Companion and a Windows Mobile application Worldmate Expense which were not reviewed.
MobiMate's WorldMate 2006 will run on Windows Mobile 2002, 2003, and 5.0. It also supports 240 x 240 square screen devices like Palm's Treo 700w. The application requires 2888KB of storage memory.
BUGS AND WISHES
MobiMate's WorldMate 2006 is a well designed application which provides valuable services while travelling. It is a large application but functioned well when installed on the storage card of a T-Mobile MDA. The application's performance was fine, except during transfers of data from the various services. The application seems to hang at the end of data transfers but given enough time it completes the transfer. The inability to view the status of all legs of a multi stop flight needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. The implementation of Windows Mobile 5.0 soft keys throughout the application and the addition of keypads (available in the Palm OS version) in the conversion services will enable users to access more functions using one hand.
My wish list for this application revolves around additional access of real time data sources like:
The TSA's security checkpoint wait times.
The ability to access major rental car and hotel chains reservation systems.
Flight tracking services like those offered by FLYTECOM.
Aircraft seat selection data from sites like seatguru.com
WorldMate 2006 application and yearly subscription can be purchased directly from here for $74.95. MobiMate also sells a standard edition of WorldMate for $34.95 which does not include access to the OAG and FlightStats database.
- Extensive traveling support data in one application
- Motion weather maps
- OAG's comprehensive flight information guide
- Tip and Tax calculator by country
- Windows Mobile soft keys are not implemented throughout the application
- No numeric keypad for conversion services
- Flight status bug
- No time zone selection on itinerary data entry screens
I found WorldMate's functionality easy to use during my trip. From checking flight status (single leg flights), accessing weather reports and maps, to currency conversion and tip calculation, WorldMate 2006 provides an excellent user interface which is simple to navigate. Each service can be accessed one handed, however within most services, you need to use the stylus or a keyboard. WorldMate 2006 is fairly expensive at $74.95 for a yearly subscription, but given the individual mobile device subscription costs for the OAG, FlightStats, and the Weather Channel databases, it is cheaper and good value. The product is definitely targeted to frequent travelers especially those who fly often. MobiMate has an excellent product base; fixing the flight status problem and addressing the issues I described will make WorldMate's 2006, a frequent flyer's best friend especially when you need to rebook a cancelled flight.