Vegas Mate 3.6, a free update for all customers, is coming on Thursday the 28th.
Here are a few of the things we've changed:
- Re-designed news screen: now less depressing looking.
- News filters: if that noise LVRJ feed is overwhelming, you can mute it.
- Faster: all throughout the app, speed improvements including starting the app.
- iCloud improvements: iCloud trip sync is more reliable and faster than before.
... and ...
- A secret surprise the next time you get to Las Vegas. You'll just have to wait and see.
Along with the above, a bunch of other smaller tweaks and bug-fixes. Check the App Store on Thursday to get the update or if you don't have Vegas Mate, pick it up today!
Vegas Mate 3.6 supports iOS 4.2 and higher. The next update, Vegas Mate 4.0, will require iOS 5.0.
So, I have this survey that I put out there, designed for Vegas Mate users. I just want to know a few things about how you use the app, what you like and what you're missing.
I know, I know - I hate surveys too. This one is really short and doesn't ask for any personal information of any kind. It'd be swell if you took 2 minutes to fill it out.
Vegas Mate 3.5, the latest version of my award-winning iOS travel app, is now on the App Store. This update is free for all existing users.
We've added iCloud support. What that means is if you have both an iPhone and iPad, when you create a trip plan on one, it will be synced to the other automatically.
In addition to that, we've improved the search quite a bit for special terms like 'view', 'brunch', etc... It even works with the names of some of the famous chefs. Now that we have the mechanics for improved search, we'll be adding to this regularly so that no matter what you're searching for, you'll find it.
The 'Places' and 'Nearby' tabs have been combined - you can now sort places by name, distance, rating or cost easily.
For iPad users, there's a new feature that lets you view hotel prices, by date, on the map. So for instance, you can put in your dates and see a color-coded heat map of where the expensive hotels are. It's a fun way to get an idea of where you might want to stay as you're planning a trip.
Vegas Mate 3.5 has a new 'featured content' tab where you'll find special articles and from time to time, messages from other people that we want to highlight.
Also, the app is now more aggressive about updating certain bits of content in the background so you'll get some of that stuff, like restaurant hours, just as soon as we input it. We discovered that some people were not applying the content updates and didn't have the most recent data so we're doing some technical wizardry to help make that more automatic.
And on top of all of the above, we've got some bug fixes and other random improvements.
If you have a minute, please go hit the App Store and leave a review. These are cleared out with each update and they make a big difference for us picking up new users.
The app has a constant stream of updates and new features. If you want to say thanks, this is the best way to do it.
This link will take you right into the iTunes page.
From time to time, we'll allow partners to bring messages to our users via the Featured tab. If you're interested in learning more about this, check out this page.
I also need to take this opportunity to thank the testers.
This release took forever to get straight, mostly because iCloud sync was a lot of work. Thank you guys and gals... and special thanks to Pete and Paolo who both went above and beyond.
The December and January sales rush for Christmas and CES brought in ton of new users, plus a lot of usage from existing folks that were visiting the city. Your help is much appreciated by all of us.
NOTE: The original 3.5 release had a bug that could cause crashes for some users. Please grab the 3.5.3 update in the App Store.
It's that time of year again - the Vegas Tripping 2011 Trippies are open for voting.
I certainly don't expect a repeat of that magnitude but there are a few entrants I'd like to direct your attention to. For your consideration:
Vegas Gang (Best Podcast) - I'm really proud of the work we've been doing on the show in the past year. We had some great interviews with folks like DeRuyter Butler, Roger Thomas, and Anthony Marnell, as well as a ton of other great episodes. I've been listening back to some of these in the past week, making me only more proud.
@simpsonlasvegas (Best Twitterer) - This one should be a shoe-in. Once Jeff took to Twitter, he was unstoppable. Give Jeff your vote.
Vegas Mate (Best App) - I'm incredibly proud of my iOS app, Vegas Mate. From great content to user reviews to trip planning and everything that's coming in the future. I'd be honored to have your vote.
Two Way Hard Three (Best Blog) - This might seem self-serving but the real reason I'm encouraging this vote is to recognize the excellent work that both Jeff and Dave did here in 2011. They wrote more than I did - this past year this place was as much theirs as mine.
There are a bunch of great nominees in all of the categories. Congratulations to everyone.
Now go vote - you have until December 24th.
On Tuesday, by chance, I stumbled across a new Las Vegas travel guide app for the iPhone that had just hit the App Store. It's called 'Great Vegas' (why not 'Great, Great, It's Really Great' Vegas... would that have been too close?) and immediately it was hard not to notice a few similarities to Vegas Mate.
Let's take a look at a screenshot:
Hmmmm... Let's not even worry too much about the fact they have a photo of Bellagio under the Trop listing. Still, I look at this and what I see is a bad rip-off Vegas Mate's UI.
Could this person have created this in a vacuum? I guess it's possible but that seems highly unlikely. Am I upset? I'm not really sure how to feel about it. As far as I know, nothing I see here is in violation of any law - Apple famously lost a case against Microsoft in the 90's for alleged copying of their UI ideas in Windows. Fortunately, they're not using any of my content or photos (that I've discovered) - that would mean a call from the firm of Lansky, Rosenthal and Sarno, LLP.
Compete with me - I welcome it! The problem is that this isn't Google to a late 90s Yahoo, this is more like Zune to iPod - derivative and with a poor choice of colors.
If you want to do a Vegas app, give it your own spin. Do something different. Give people a reason to respect your entry into an increasingly crowded market. And hey, make sure you learn to properly capitalize text in menus and buttons (come on, it's all in the Mobile Human Interface Guidelines - read 'em)
There are so many ways to build an app like this. I'd love to see another, well done take on the concept. For a long time VM was alone but there are now a bunch of Vegas-related apps in the store - entries from casinos, from other travel writers, etc... With all of the new competition, this is the first time I've seen blatant copying.
If you read this, don't think I see Vegas Mate as a perfect app. I, as most product people I know, see nothing but the flaws in my own work. I'm proud to say I've progressed the software since it's introduction in 2008 but there's still so much ground to cover. As I add features, my goal is to make them understandable and usable. If I'm being objective, my biggest failing is making them fun - and an app for Vegas should be fun. I'm working on that.
Building apps is a blast. I know that excitement from seeing your app on the App Store the first time... but please, come up with your own ideas... or if you do take an existing concept from somewhere, put your own spin on it and try to make it better. Taking someone else's idea and doing a half-assed copy job is just insulting.
Seriously, I wish this guy the best. Just do your own thing. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.
Vegas Mate 3.2, an update originally designed to support iOS 5 but then ballooned as time went on, has hit the App Store. Here's what's new:
- iOS 5 compatibility: now compatible with Apple's latest version of iOS.
- Add your own custom items to your trips, even if they're not in the Vegas Mate database. Create, sync and share trips that include anything you want.
- Add trip notes: win/loss details, air travel details - whatever doesn't fit into a normal trip schedule.
- Both custom items and trip notes export via email, sync between devices and can be printed.
- Share your reviews on Facebook easily.
- Navigate between tourist tips by swiping left and right.
- Push Notifications: allow yourself to be notified of new content updates and other breaking app news.
- Extended Notifications: if you want extra Vegas news, enable this option in Settings.
- Added the ability to copy a photo into the clipboard. Tap and hold when viewing a full-size photo.
- Increased the font size when writing a review to make things easier to read.
- Photos should display much more quickly, even on 3G connections.
- Improved search accuracy for certain search terms.
- User interface improvements.
- Fix for a bug that prevented you from saving photos to your camera roll.
- Fix for a bug that prevented you from emailing photos.
Thanks to user John W. for help finding the above two issues.
- Fix for a bug that could cause a crash when downloading trip templates.
If you're running (or are about to be running) iOS 5, this is a must-update. There are a bunch of things Apple changed that we now accommodate.
In addition, the other big items are:
- Ability to add anything to a trip - any custom item you might want.
- Trip notes to store anything that you might want.
- Push Notifications - both a 'standard' level but also 'extended' push for those people that want breaking news and other big stories pushed out to them. Enable that in the Settings app under Vegas Mate.
- Swipe navigation for Tourist Tips - turns out this is a much nicer way to read these.
I was originally expecting this update would come out in early September but since iOS 5 is only now upon is, here is. Thanks for your patience and thanks for being Vegas Mate customers.
Three years ago today, the first version of Vegas Mate was made available on the iTunes App Store. Since then I've been through dozens of updates through three major versions.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of my customers, supporters and friends. It's incredibly rewarding to produce a product that so many people have told me they love.
Lots more to come with Vegas Mate in the future, stay tuned.
I'm teaming up with the guys at the 360 Vegas Podcast to include a new segment on their podcast, featuring recent reviews posted to the site and to my Vegas Mate app. It's going to be a lot of fun, but first, how about a few words about the show itself...
360 is only at episode number eight and that means you might not yet know about this new entry in Vegas podcast-land. The weekly show, run by irreverent co-hosts Bryan and Mark, is a lot of fun. To put it simply, if you're a fan of Five Hundy, Vegas Tripping, the Gang and this site, you should dig 360. The show is well produced and includes an extensive re-cap of everything from restaurant openings and closings and slot jackpots to the best recent Vegas TwitPic.
If you're addicted to Vegas info, you should add 360 to your playlist. They're on iTunes here.
As for the segment in question, they're going to be picking their favorite new VM/RV review each week to feature on the show. I read every single review that goes into Vegas Mate and they range from expected to hilarious.
I'm looking forward to it.
I haven't done one of these for a little while, thought it might be nice to check in and see what's popular in Vegas Mate recently. June 2011 was the most active month in the app since I began tracking. All of the data collected is anonymous.
1. Aria (Last Month: No Change)
2. Bellagio (Last Month: No Change)
3. Caesars Palace (Last Month: No Change)
4. Cosmopolitan (Last Month: No Change)
5. The Venetian (Last Month: #6)
6. MGM Grand (Last Month: #5)
7. The Mirage (Last Month: No Change)
8. Wynn Las Vegas (Last Month: No Change)
9. Planet Hollywood (Last Month: No Change)
10. Mandalay Bay (Last Month: No Change)
It's interesting to see how little these positions have swapped and also that Cosmopolitan has retained a strong place. The last place hotel was Vdara.
Here's some data on restaurants:
1. Bellagio Buffet
2. Wicked Spoon Buffet
3. 'Secret Pizza Place'
4. Mesa Grill
5. Mon Ami Gabi
7. Hash House a Go Go
8. Wynn Buffet
10. Earl of Sandwich
12. Aria Buffet
13. Cabo Wabo
14. Cheesecake Factory
As in previous months, buffets and casual dining are extremely popular. Restaurants like Delmonico and Craftsteak rounded up the top 20.
For shows and other activities, newcomer Absinthe was the most popular:
2. Peep Show
6. Fountains of Bellagio
7. Garth Brooks
Cirque has a solid showing but it's interesting to see them start at No. 5.
In the nightclub/dayclub arena, XS still reigns:
2. Wet Republic
3. Coyote Ugly
4. Playboy Club
6. Encore Beach Club
I'm happy to report that Vegas Mate 3.1 has hit the App Store. This update, originally planned as a relatively small set of changes, turned out to be a three month endeavor. Whew.
After the jump, a few more details on specific changes but here are some of the most important bits:
Trip Templates are a new feature designed to provide sets of trip recommendations to Vegas visitors that are trying to decide what to do. Imagine suggestions for outings like 'bachelor party' or 'business trip', each including a set of hotels, restaurants, activities and other tips.
I was able to get some friends to contribute templates - a huge thank you to everyone that was able to be a part of it. Trip templates will continue to be added and updated over time.
The original vision for the app was to have an iPad version that was great for pre-trip planning and then also an iPhone version that was useful on the go. Up until now, the biggest piece missing in this equation was the ability to sync trips between devices.
Well, trip sync is now included in 3.1. It works over WiFi for devices on the same network and also works via email - the file that is generated can be imported into any copy of Vegas Mate running 3.1 or later.
Ultimately, the app is all about content. This time around, I've added new photos, new tourist tips and new feeds in the news area.
Vegas Mate 3.1 is a free update for existing users and $1.99 to purchase for new users. It requires iOS 4.0 or greater. If you like Vegas Mate, it'd be great if you could leave a review/rating in the App Store, even if you've done so before.
Those are the biggies for this update. More after the jump.
My friend Steve Friess announced today that he is moving to Michigan so that he can pursue a fellowship at the University of Michigan (which, unsurprisingly, is in Michigan).
Yes, Las Vegas will be Friess-less.
I got to talk to Steve about it this afternoon and it's obvious he's really excited about the new challenge so as a friend, I'm thrilled for him... and also bummed. C'est la vie.
On a professional level, I'll miss his blog posts, podcast interviews and random Twitter-fire. His new position will keep him focused on that work and that means no more contributing to side-projects like Vegas Mate.
I'm not sure what else to say except to wish Steve and Miles luck. I guess now I have a reason to visit Michigan.
I'm sure he'll have a lot more to say about it on his blog.
I'm back with another peek at the stats collected by Vegas Mate, my iOS app for all things Vegas. Traffic in the app is up again this month, which is always nice.
Over the past thirty days, Vegas Mate usage has broken down as follows - most viewed hotels:
1. Aria (5.73% - Last Month: #1)
2. Bellagio (5.45% - Last Month: #3)
3. Caesars Palace (4.39% - Last Month: #4)
4. Cosmopolitan (4.31% - Last Month: #2)
5. MGM Grand (4.04% - Last Month: #6)
6. The Venetian (3.59% - Last Month: #5)
7. The Mirage (3.22% - Last Month: #9)
8. Wynn Las Vegas (3.09% - Last Month: #7)
9. Planet Hollywood (2.90% - Last Month: #8)
10. Mandalay Bay (2.72% - Last Month: #10)
A few interesting points:
* Cosmo fell from #2 to #4.
* Aria remains in the top spot.
* The Mirage zoomed up two spots.
Compared to last month, the top 10 represented a smaller share of the overall pie, indicating less concentration amongst the top properties.
The least popular? Fiesta Henderson. The least popular on The Strip was the Four Seasons.
In restaurants, the Buffet at Bellagio was again the most popular, followed by the Wynn Buffet, Aria's buffet and then Craftsteak. The top ten restaurants are four buffets, two cafes and four fine dining places.
The most popular shows? Peepshow followed by O, Garth Brooks and Jabbawockeez.
I've been collecting anonymous stats of Vegas Mate usage since October. For those familiar, they work sort of like Web stats - basically treating screens in the app as 'pages'. I added the analytics to make better informed decisions when enhancing the product but one interesting side effect is seeing what people are looking at.
What's the most popular hotel in Vegas Mate? I thought it might be fun to look at the data...
Over the past thirty days, Vegas Mate usage has broken down as follows:
1. Aria (6.59%)
2. Cosmopolitan (6.28%)
3. Bellagio (5.83%)
4. Caesars Palace (4.77%)
5. The Venetian (4.05%)
6. MGM Grand (3.97%)
7. Wynn Las Vegas (3.67%)
8. Planet Hollywood (3.19%)
9. The Mirage (3.17%)
10. Mandalay Bay (2.93%)
The top ten represent about 45% of the total hotels viewed - there's still quite a bit of activity all the way along the curve. I was interested to see Aria sticking in that top spot, despite a strong surge from Cosmo.
I may do some of these posts on a semi-regular basis, we'll see.
Today, we're introducing something new: VegasDelivered.com, a site for one of a kind Las Vegas media content.
As part of Steve's job as a journalist, he frequently ends up with great content that can't be used in a story - maybe it's too long or doesn't fit the narrative arc. Sometimes these gems end up on The Strip Podcast but some of it never sees the light of day. VegasDelivered.com is a way for us to share more of this content with you.
The first thing you'll notice is that it's not free. We want to be able to produce more of this content in the future and to help facilitate that, we're charging a nominal fee. In addition to the Web site, the content will also be available for sale inside of Vegas Mate, through a future update. The site is launching with a single item but eventually, this will expand to include additional videos, audio and more. Purchase is handled via PayPal.
We premiere with a Wynn Las Vegas tour featuring both the updated guest rooms and the Lakeside Grill, given by interior designer Roger Thomas and hosted by Steve. To get a sense of what you'd be paying for, there are two trailers available for viewing on the site.
Right now, this is a bit of an experiment and we want your feedback. Too long? Too short? Too expensive? Too boring? We want to know. There's an email link right there on the page or feel free to leave a comment here. There's also a support email address for any technical problems you might have.
As for the site itself, it's quite basic and intended just as a placeholder (don't judge!) A full site will come, in time.
Happy to say that this blog, along with my app Vegas Mate, the recently re-done RateVegas.com Web site, the Vegas Gang Podcast and my Twitter ramblings are all nominated for awards in the 2010 Trippies.
I'm honored to once again be nominated and I hope you'll consider voting for the above as you cast your ballot. Voting only takes a few minutes.
Vote Here: http://www.vegastripping.com/trippies2010/
So, last year at Podcast-a-palooza, I met these crazy lookin' folks that were telling me about their Star Trek podcast. I'm not much of a Trekkie (or is it Trekker? I'll never know) but Dave and Alicia were super friendly and it was fun to meet 'em.
Well, fast forward to September of this year and I discovered that they are now hosting a video show, Pub Crawl, on the brand new Vegas Video Network (VVN is a new video network from Scott Whitney, one hell of a nice guy).
I'll admit to being pretty jaded when it comes to Vegas content - so much of it sucks. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Pub Crawl is a ton of fun. The hosts are naturals and they're great to watch. I chuckled more than a few times during the Halloween episode, for example.
Anyway, I liked what I saw and jumped on board, sponsoring a few episodes of the show with Vegas Mate.
If you enjoy semi-goofy fun, this is a great show - check it out.
Vegas Mate for iPhone, our beloved app for Vegas enthusiasts, will be on sale for only $0.99 starting tomorrow, until Monday the 1st.
The sale is to celebrate Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, which will be live on Saturday.
I was fortunate enough to be a guest on 'This Week in Travel' this past week. For those unfamiliar, it's a fun podcast that covers the entire travel industry.
It looks like the Web site isn't yet up to date but if you head on over to iTunes, the episode has been up for a few days in their actual feed.
The topics included roller bags, travel writing awards and Las Vegas, as you might expect. I really had a blast and I appreciate them having me.
The hosts of the show are also working on their own, interesting projects:
Jen Leo has a new 'Coffee Break' video series:
and Gary Arndt is in the midst of jetting off to Aruba - tough gig!
Big things are happening in the Vegas Mate universe and the product that's currently available for the iPad will be phased out of active support in the coming months. It will be replaced with a universal version of the iPhone app - that means that when Vegas Mate 3.0 for the phone comes out, it will run on both iPhone and iPad, no more separate versions. I'll be writing more about the details and how I made some of these decisions in future posts. I've put a lot of thought into all of this.
At that point, the existing iPad app will be renamed 'VM Classic for iPad' and will not receive any further feature updates. It will still be able to download and share reviews, photos and the other great content Vegas Mate users are used to.
The upgrade to the upcoming universal app will be free for existing owners of 'Vegas Mate for iPhone'. I'm aware that there may be some users that purchased only the iPad version and do not own a license for the iPhone version. I'll do my best to work with you so that you're satisfied, within the constraints of the App Store system. We'll cross that bridge when we get closer to the release.
Vegas Mate 3.0 is scheduled to be released before the end of 2010.
Yes, it's true... our first iPad contest back in March was a huge success - so much so, it's time to do it again!
You can win one of Apple's shiny new tablets to be your very own, simply by submitting reviews of your favorite hotels, restaurants and activities into our iPhone/iPad app, Vegas Mate, or view the Web site at RateVegas.com.
The winner will be announced LIVE during the Vegas Podcast-a-palooza on October 30th at The Flamingo.
All the details after the jump.
I'm prepping updates to both versions of Vegas Mate, coming very soon.
Vegas Mate for iPad 1.2: Submitted to Apple a few days ago, it features proper landscape support as well as a few other tweaks. It's a relatively minor update.
Vegas Mate for iPhone 2.6: A bigger update than the iPad version with photos, Twitter integration, some UI tweaks, global search and a lot of other changes. I hope to have this submitted by the end of the week.
Both updates will be free for existing customers.
I'm excited to get these out to folks, especially the iPhone update, which has been in the works for awhile. After this, the next update will be for the iPad and include a big new feature. Following that, a major overhaul of the iPhone version, something I'm not ready to discuss yet.
In addition, both products now have dedicated Web sites with product info and support questions, including screen casts if you're not familiar with how the products work.