Highlights by Ben Dodson Apps icon

Highlights ($0.99) by Ben Dodson Apps is an app that gives you crowd sourced recommendations on where to go for various occasions. This can be for just the area around you or anywhere in the world.

Do you ever find yourself in a new area and looking for something new to do or munch on? I’m pretty sure this happens to everyone, and Highlights can help by highlighting the places you should definitely check out.

The app has three main sections when you launch it: Browse & Search, Recommended, and Travel Planner.

Highlights by Ben Dodson Apps screenshot

Browse & Search allows you to simply browse the full list of locations around you or anywhere in the world, based on Gowalla and Foursquare data. To use your location, simply tap on that GPS button in the bottom left corner; to browse anywhere in the world, just use the magnifying glass at the top right.

You can view these locations in either list or map view. Personally, I find lists much more convenient, rather than tapping on each pin on a map to show the name of a place. You can control what appears by tapping on the button in the bottom right to “peel the page back” and reveal some options: Category, Highlight, Search Radius, and order locations in list view by recommendations or distance.

In Recommended view, you can see the top spots for various categories, such as Culture/Religion/Arts, Entertainment, Food & Dining, Nightlife, Shopping, and more. Each of these spots will be represented with the Gowalla icon. Scrolling up and down will reveal the various categories, while you can scroll left and right to view the various spots within a category.

The places that will show up in Recommended will also depend on the distance radius that you have set. You can have it anywhere between one, five, 10, 25, or 50 kilometers.

Tapping on a different distance will cause the results to refresh and reload, and during this brief moment, the distance bar at the bottom is also gone. I wish the bar wouldn’t disappear when it’s reloading though, since it seems unnecessary.

With either Browse & Search or Recommended views, tapping on a place will allow you to view it. From here, you can view Reviews or Photos (both crowd sourced from Gowalla and Foursquare). You can also see where it is on the map, how far you are from it, and have the option to open it in Gowalla or Foursquare.

Each place you view can also be added to your Travel Planner. This is essentially a list of places that you want to check out from within the app.

This app is fairly straightforward, easy-to-use, and has a pretty decent interface. However, it also demonstrates the problem of crowd sourcing a database, since it has more of the “popular” items rather than hidden gems.

The data that Highlights pulls to rank places isn’t by the amount of check-ins as one would think, but rather the amount of photographs, comments, user activity, and more.

Highlights by Ben Dodson Apps screenshot

The Travel Planner could use a bit more work. I would like to be able to share this itinerary with friends or family that would be interested in checking out new places. Currently, there is no option to do that.

Since this is a universal app, I would like to see a way to be able to sync your data for the Travel Planner between devices. Again, this is not currently possible it seems. Perhaps a backup method would be nice to have.

Despite the crowd sourced database which may just highlight big-name places and not hidden gems, it works well for what it is.

If you want to find somewhere new to check out and don’t mind crowd sourced answers, then give Highlights a try. For $0.99 as a universal binary, it’s not bad at all.