Starwood releases new hotel app in tandem with iOS 7 release

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on September 18, 2013

From The News Desk

Today is the day! I bet you know what I'm talking about, don't you? The highly anticipated mobile release, right? Yep, it's here: Starwood Hotels & Resorts has finally released its new app. Oh, you're talking about iOS 7? Oh, well that's cool too.

Yes, it's true, iOS 7 has finally been released today. We can now begin to see all the wonderful newfangled iOS things developers will be able to create. With this update comes new graphics, apps, controls, as well as a new developer language. Which really means that apps are going to have to update, and fast, if they haven't already.

But, as I alluded to earlier, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), the loyalty program headed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, has released its latest app in both English and Chinese fresh on the heels of the iOS release. This morning in New York, the company's senior vice president, Chris Holden, and its VP of global and digital, Clay Cowan, unveiled the new app, giving the press both a chance to see the new app as well as see the new OS in action.

Cowan and Holden reported that the company's mobile reservations have risen dramatically over the last few years. In addition, the company projects that it will receive more online traffic from mobile devices than personal computers by 2015. It also dubs itself the "most global hotel company," with properties in over 100 countries.

While the company's revenue decreased earlier this year, its profits exceeded estimates due to a tax benefit. With all of this, the company is hoping to increase its branding and clientele by keeping up with mobile trends.

According to Cowan, the new app was tailored around two different types of user use-cases: the person who sits back and leisurely peruses the app to find the perfect hotel by looking at users' instagrams, reviews, amenities list, etc., and the person who need to book a room now with a "quick burst of energy." So users can easily browse endless information about potential hotels, or quickly book a reservation if they're in a hurry.

Holden said that the company had been working on an iOS 6 update, when it received word about the news about iOS 7 a few months back. So the devs decided to scrap the original update and start building the 7 model from scratch. This seems to have worked out nicely because the app's interface is easy to use and has some cool features. Take, for example, the app's Foursquare and Instagram integration, allowing users to see what's trending nearby their hotels and view perfectly filtered photos of beachside resorts.

The two executives explained that this release is trying to transcend your average hotel booking app, and was built from a "tech developer standpoint." What does this mean? Well, to be honest, not too much -- it is still a hotel reservation app.

It does use some of 7's latest features, including a trippy background that utilizes the OS's parallax 3D background. (All this means really is that if you move the device up and down, the background slightly shifts and morphs in a visually appealing way.) It also uses the new feature AirDrop, which allows iOS users to share files with each other. For Starwood, this lets users share their reservation information, or specifics about certain properties, with others.

While there are some standout features like includes in-app booking and unfiltered user reviews (the latter is a smart marketing move on Starwood's part), this doesn't mean a new epoch for hotel reservation apps. It just means that Starwood has a good developer team, and hopefully others will follow suit.

And for those who don't have enough money for a Starwood reservation, if you ever want to spend hours hate-browsing by swiping through numerous user-generated photos from five-star resorts, there's now an app for that.