Tripper, the world’s local assistant, as their slogan says, is for when you are in a foreign country and need help. Connecting to the app through a cellular plan, your smart phone’s data package or Wi-Fi, operators are available within moments.
Mostly, the operators help with interpretation, but they offer other services. You can get recommendations for bars and restaurants. You can make reservations for hotels and flights. They can track your location by GPS and they can translate photos for you. For an additional cost they can even provide a VPN.
Sam Silverman works at Tripper. He explained how it can be helpful in any situation. “It could be used for something as trivial as ordering noodles in a restaurant to an emergency like directing a taxi to the nearest hospital,” said Silverman who is in charge of English market business development.
Arguably, the success of an app like Tripper depends on its operators. It does not matter how amazing the app is if the operators are
not good enough.
Tripper is a new app and it seems like the operators still need time to gain more experience. When they were solving a problem for me it felt a bit like they were doing it for the first time. The operator needed time to think about the solution, rather than knowing from experience. When I asked for the address for a hotel they seemed uncertain about how to give it to me. It was actually I who suggested they send the address by text.
Although some of the operators might lack experience, every operator I spoke with spoke excellent English. There were never any issues with them understanding me, or me understanding them. They were just as comfortable giving me the location of a hotel as they were while translating a menu in a café for a colleague.
Sometimes this kind of experience can feel like speaking to a computer, but these operators were friendly. The first time I called I was confused about what exactly to do, but they were patient with me and took the time to explain everything. They were also proactive. After sending directions to a bar by text, an operator called back my colleague to make sure he had received it.
Like any new app, there are some bugs that need to be fixed. I tried to send a photo to be translated, but the operator seemed to think it did not work. My colleague tried to use the GPS tracker, but the operator said it was not possible at that moment. He should have been able to use the data package on his smart phone. The bugs do not interfere with the main services, but they are frustrating because if the special features worked they would be very useful.
Tripper is just as able to recommend somewhere to go for dinner as it is able to translate an address. When I asked for somewhere to go for a drink they suggested going to Bar Street. When I asked for somewhere to eat I was recommended to go to Thirteen Bowls Street. For expats, Tripper is unlikely to suggest anywhere you have not been before, but for travelers, Tripper can recommend somewhere you can find familiar food and see friendly faces.
… the success of an app like Tripper depends on its operators.
The recommendations, however, did not seem to be based on experience. When I asked for somewhere I could try some local dishes it felt like the operator was reading from a review on a Web site.
As it turns out, Tripper does not have any operators in Guangdong. In fact, when we contacted Tripper we were told in all of China they only have around twenty operators. That did not seem like enough, but every time I rang there was someone to take my call.
Tripper is original, but when you introduce a new product to the market you need to educate your customers. The first time I used it I was unsure of what to do except call the operator. The app would benefit from a tutorial.
The app is free to download and there are four packages available. The Standard package, at US$2.99, is the best option for those who want to pay as they go. You receive five minutes and it does not include any of the other features. The Premium package, at US$29.99 a month, is for those who want to use it regularly. You receive 100 minutes and 10 photo translations a month. It also includes a VPN. Return calls and text messages are free with all packages.
Sam has a clear vision of what Tripper can be. “When someone needs to search something on the internet they will Google it. We hope that in the future when someone needs help in a foreign country they will tripper it,” he said.
The current 1.3 version is only available in China and Japan, but they are already developing 2.0 and the plan is for it to be available all over the world. Tripper is a great idea; it’s just not a great app yet. We are a long way from using tripper as a verb, but if they keep working on the app, then perhaps one day we will.