Conde Nast Traveler magazine sent three reporters to Moscow, one armed with an iPhone, one with a BlackBerry Bold and one with an old-fashioned guidebook, to see whether the gadgets or the book were more helpful in completing a series of typical tourist challenges — finding a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, various attractions and a pharmacy.
The results may surprise you: The writer armed with the guidebook completed most of the tasks more quickly and easily than the writers with gadgets.
Details of the challenge appear in Conde Nast Traveler's June issue and online at www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/500791.
The tech-assisted writers were hampered by Moscow's slow data network, which made downloading information tedious. This also caused their batteries to run low and sometimes to go dead.
Because the assignment was in February, the iPhone-assisted writer also complained of frozen fingers, since the gadget can't read a touch through a glove.
In addition, he said, he could have left his hotel an hour earlier each day had he been planning his itinerary on a laptop “instead of zooming in and out of web pages and tediously typing on-screen.”
Staring at the tiny screen, he added, also cuts you off from the people around you and makes it hard to fully appreciate your surroundings.
The writer using the BlackBerry Bold did give the thumbs-up to an app called the Beiks Talking English-Russian Phrase Book, which let an automated voice speak for him when asking directions from passers-by.
“The clumsy manoeuvre earned plenty of laughs but nearly always got me where I needed to go and often led to interesting conversations,” he wrote.
The writer using the guidebook, an Eyewitness Travel guide to Moscow, also relied extensively on the kindness of strangers and advice from her hotel concierge.
She beat out the gadget guys in five of the magazine's nine challenges, including finding a hotel with no reservation for less than $300 US a night (it took her 45 minutes compared to two hours for the BlackBerry user and more than three hours for the iPhone man); finding an affordable restaurant beloved by locals (it took the guidebook user five minutes compared to a complete failure by the BlackBerry user, whose battery was dead, and 45 minutes for the iPhone guy); and taking the subway to a bazaar in search of a craft (the guidebook user completed the task in 90 minutes by asking people for help, while the BlackBerry user could not complete the task and the iPhone user took three hours).
The guidebook gal also was the winner when it came to buying an aspirin at a pharmacy at midnight and finding a bar to hang out with the locals.
However, it did take her longer to find the home of a notable dead Russian, see a live performance, and find the Diamond Vaults at the Kremlin.
She came in second in finding the best pelmeni (a type of dumpling) in town for lunch.
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