As a big Starwood Hotels and iPhone fan, you might think that I would have blogged about the new SPG iPhone app that was released about a month ago already, but there were a few issues with it, that I wanted to see fixed before I reviewed it here.
Those fixes have not appeared yet, but I thought I should continue with my review at this point anyway.
I have used the SPG mobile site from my iPhone for the past couple of years while traveling, mainly to see if there was last minute availability at a previously sold-out hotel, or to check and see if a suite was available before I check in, so I can remind the hotel that I should be upgraded as a Platinum Preferred Guest. When I saw that there was a native iPhone app available from SPG, I went out with excitement to download it right away.
Download and install of the app went quick. At first glance I was pretty impressed, it allowed you to enter your SPG website login info once, and it would be saved for future use if you wished.
From the main screen, you can access your Account Summary, which allows you to view your Starwood Member # in case you need it at some point, as well as your current Starpoints balance, your membership level, the number of stays so far this year, as well as the number of nights you have stayed.
Under the My Stays menu option is where I began to see the first problem. As you can see in the pictures below, the list of upcoming stays included a past stay, and was missing an upcoming stay. Past stays included my upcoming stays, and all stays was missing an upcoming stay. In my mind, this should be a simple database query which obtains this information, and there should be no reason why these stays are mixed up. Another feature which is lacking is the ability to see all aspects of your reservation, such as the rate you booked at. However a cool feature is present in this section, you can click a button to display a map to the hotel, or another button to initiate a phone call to the hotel. These are two great features of this app, but for the record the Map function is not working for an upcoming stay of mine in Paris, but works fine for a past stay in St Paul Minnesota.
The Recent Activity option accurately showed my recent SPG Starpoint activity broken down between stays, bonus points, award redemptions, and a chronological list of all activity. One feature I would like in this area however, was recently introduced on the SPG website, which lists each hotel that each bonus point posting was related to, making it very easy to track down missing Platinum Amenity or promo postings to your account, but for a first iteration, I am happy that the info displayed in the App is at least accurate.
The Find and Book and Customer Support options simply load the mobile version of the SPG site in a browser window within the app. Although I wished these functions would be handled directly in the app, rather than in a mobile browser instance, again the implementation is alright for this first generation application. My big complaint with the mobile browser find and book functionality is that it is just a slow process requiring a few too many steps, and could be optimized by being contained in the native app. Another option I wish existed, was the ability to book a reservation with Points or Cash & Points directly within the app, as SPG is the loyalty program wing of Starwood Hotels, so lacking this functionality in the iPhone App does not make the most sense.
There are a couple more menu options, the first TheLobby.com Blog simply opens the blog in a specially themed web page within the app. This is actually a good implementation as it allows you to quickly read through the various postings, but does lose some of the beauty that the images on the regular blog gives the site. The last option, the More link, just provides links to the privacy statement, Terms and Conditions, and spg.com which opens the full Starwood Hotelswebsite in a seperate instance of the Safari Browser, which is a little slow for the mobile device, but does give you more functionality than the mobile themed version of the site.
Overall it is a good first try, but they have to get the all, past and upcoming stay issue resolved for me to completely trust the application. One thing I do appreciate however with this app is crucial for me. With a recent change to the My Upcoming Stays portion of the SPG site, stays disappear and cannot be seen online on your arrival day. I used to check this often to see if I had been pre-blocked into an upgraded room or suite before my arrival at the hotel. These day of arrival reservations are however still listed in the SPG iPhone app, and on my recent trip to Minneapolis did indeed indicate when the W Hotel had upgraded me from a Wonderful Room to a Fantastic Suite before my arrival.
Dear SPG please keep this functionality within the app!
All in all this app has great potential and is a great first try, and definitely gives you more functionality than the SPG mobile site alone, and utilizes some of the features of the iPhone SDK to take advantage of the hardware of the iPhone, making for a fast and fun application to use.
Click the images below to open them in a new window