Find a room for the night with Airbnb

By Pete Davison Comment

Airbnb is a mobile app from the service of the same name. It’s available now from the App Store and Google Play as a free download, and is currently being featured by Apple as an app that “looks great on iPhone 5″ on the front page of the App Store. This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.

Airbnb has two main uses — to allow property owners to list available rooms and attract new customers, and to allow those looking for a place to stay to discover and pay for properties. The service may be browsed without signing in, but to make full use of its features users must log in using either Facebook or their email address.

Airbnb’s “front page” offers an array of featured properties, each sporting a high-quality photo, basic location information and a cost per night in the user’s local currency. Photos are marked with a special icon if they have been “verified” as accurate depictions of the property. Users may browse the most popular properties, sets of “picks” chosen by Airbnb’s staff, and friends’ wishlists if they have connected their account to social media.

Tapping on a property takes the user to a more detailed page of information, from which the user can browse photos, see the price per night, book a stay (with payments handled through Airbnb’s own payment system) or contact the host directly. Additional information is also available if the host has provided it, including cancellation policies, house rules, numbers of rooms, minimum stays and the like. Hosts are also able to provide a checklist of amenities for what is provided and/or allowed on the property. Users may also add a property they like the look of to a wishlist. Users may maintain multiple wishlists if they desire, allowing them to organize potential properties as they see fit.

A page of information on the property also provides a link to the host’s profile along with their response rate and length of membership. Users may also browse through reviews from people who have stayed there in the past.

Most things in the Airbnb app may be shared via social media and email. The app makes full use of iOS 5 and 6’s built-in Twitter and Facebook functionality respectively, allowing for logging in and sharing of content without ever having to leave the app. Individual properties may be shared, or alternatively links to wishlists may be posted. Because Airbnb is also accessible via the Web rather than being a purely mobile social network, this means that even users without smartphones or those browsing Facebook/Twitter on a computer will be able to see the information the user wanted to share.

Airbnb’s app is slick and easy to navigate, looks good and offers all the functionality a user of the service would need, whether they are a prospective renter or a host.  It’s an excellent example of a popular service developing a high-quality mobile app that complements their Web-based offerings well, and will likely help both Airbnb and its users enjoy some success in their endeavors.