We’re pretty spoiled in Beijing in terms of expat magazines both online and offline. The publications and websites offer pretty extensive listings with addresses, reviews and what not. They also make for good bathroom reading material! That said, there are times when you’re not lugging one of them around and you need to find your way around to some establishment.
What’s a geek to do? The geek uses the phone to go online and check the listings!
Admittedly, you can visit most websites using your mobile phone and they’ll show up more or less alright but there is something to be said for sites specifically formatted for mobile access. And Beijing got those too…
The Beijinger was the first to the party with mobilebeijing.com, long before any of the others paid any attention to the mobile web market. Then, Mobile Native and City Weekend joined the parade with mobnat.com and cityfu.com respectively!
How do they compare?
Interface / Look
All 3 are pretty much formatted for mobile devices which means more often than not having a clean, simple and intuitive interface. You’re meant to go there looking for listings and they’re designed to help you look for listings. The color schemes are in line with their main portals except for mobilebeijing which is pretty minimal compared to its big brother.. (that’s not necessarily a bad thing)
- MobileBeijing has addresses and phone numbers, both in English and characters
- CityFu has addresses, phone numbers as well as maps but unfortunately, the map never rendered on my Nokia N95 or on my T-mobile dash.
- MobNat rocks the house! Addresses, phone numbers, maps (that work pretty fast) as well as the ability to send the listing in Chinese or English to your mobile phone without any registration or hassle!!! These cats definitely put some thought into the whole thing.
Ok, this whole thing is about founding venues, right? can you easily find them? I randomly picked 2 venues i wrote about in the past to conduct my test: 2 kolegas and NaJia XiaoGuan (那家小馆)
for 2 kolegas, all 3 performed admirably with various amounts of information. The main thing is that they found the place and that is what mattered.
When it came to NaJia XiaoGuan (那家小馆), you could definitely see the difference:
- MobileBeijing just couldn’t find it in pinyin or characters no matter what combination i tried.
- CityFu didn’t get it through characters but has some issues with pinyin. It had to be typed a certain way
- MobNat scored 100% both with pinyin and characters, even when i tried different pinyin permutations
- There will always be a soft spot in my heart for MobileBeijing because they were there first.. I’ve been using them for almost a year and mostly got me where i needed to go. Granted, I always forget if it’s mobilebeijing or beijingmobile and that’s one long URL to type on a tiny keyboard
- CityFu is a nice effort but I expect better out of a company with their financial means. They need to apply the same creative process to their mobile site as they do their main website
- MobNat just blows the competition away by far!!! The “send by sms” feature is a lifesaver and the maps come in handy as well for those times when you might get lost… Also, looks like they took the time to clearly work on their search algorithm for maximum search efficiency! they are my new default mobile listing tool
I’d like to see all 3 add more pinyin to their listings for those that are character-challenged. Sometimes, it’s just easier to try and tell a taxi driver where to go than to have him/her glance at a screen or a card because let’s face it, this city’s taxi drivers are NOT a reference (at least not a positive one)
Tests were conducted on a Nokia N95-8GB using wi-fi connection and Antony Pranata’s amazing screenshot app for symbian!