Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be writing a post every Wednesday to start. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.
You can find more posts by Travis here:
- Review: United’s Streaming In-Flight Entertainment
- To Lap Child, Or Not To Lap Child — That Is The Question
- Travis Joins One Mile at a Time
Many travel related companies now offer incentives or promotions for booking travel using your smartphone.
- Through November 16, Club Carlson will give you 3000 bonus points for booking via their app.
- Ben reports that HotelUpgrade will get you special perks, including on corporate and AAA rates, but only if you book via their app.
- Hilton and SPG often offer bonus points during their promotions for booking via the app.
- National gives 75 bonus points towards their One Two Free promo
The reason for this requirement is fairly simple – these companies want to change your behavior. They want you to think of them and launch their app when you are making last minute plans from the road. It is a very lucrative market and they want to be a fingertip away. And they are willing to buy their way into your thought process.
Now I don’t know about you, but I hate typing on my iPhone. I was pretty fast on a Blackberry but even after a couple of years of practice my fingers feel like Lincoln Logs on a touchscreen — I think my finger covers about 5 letters simultaneously! Of course fat finger mistakes can be a lot of fun, but that’s only when they are made by somebody else!
In addition, I manage travel accounts for multiple friends and family members which means I like scalability. Logging in and out of multiple accounts using a smartphone is tedious and cumbersome. Lots of typing and tapping. This is infinitely easier on a PC then a smartphone.
It turns out that the solution to this is to install an emulator. Wikipedia defines an emulator as:
hardware or software or both that duplicates (or emulates) the functions of one computer system (the guest) in another computer system (the host), different from the first one, so that the emulated behavior closely resembles the behavior of the real system (the guest).
That’s exactly what we want to do — duplicate the Android OS on our PC (or Mac) so that we can make hotels, online travel agencies, whoever, believe that we are using their app. And in fact we are using their app, just not on a smartphone. Pretty cool.
Upon launching the emulator you get a window on your PC that looks pretty much like what you would see on your phone. This will then allow you to download and install apps the same as you would on your smartphone. The best part is that when you use those apps to book travel, the company has no idea that you booked it from your PC – all they know is that it was booked from their app, and thus you get the bonus or whatever incentive they are offering.
Bluestacks was the standard Android emulator for a long time and is still very popular. A second Android emulator called Andy was recently released and also gets good reviews. These emulators are primarily used by gamers who want to play app-based games on a big screen and by developers who want to see how their apps look and feel without running on native hardware.
I have played a bit with both and was able to install both of them on my PC without issue. The reality is that for using travel-related apps you are not going to be pushing the limits, so it probably does not matter which you install. Both Bluestacks and Andy are free, at least for the basic version which is sufficient for this purpose. I will focus on Andy below.
Android emulator ‘Andy’ running on a PC
The installation process is fairly straightforward:
1. Download Andy or Bluestacks
4. Follow the setup instructions for configuring the Android OS
5. Install the travel apps you want to use
6. Make bookings and capture mobile app bonuses and incentives right from your PC
Club Carlson app running on ‘Andy’
Whether you still do not have a smartphone or just do not like typing and tapping on it, this work around will allow you to capture app-based incentives right from your PC. There are certainly some other interesting uses of this technology but I will save those for another day.
Is anyone else using an Android-emulator? Any other good mobile bonuses out there right now?