My colleague Robert Palmer has reported that HearPlanet [app store link] is free for this week, so I downloaded and gave it a try. It is a nice surprise. HearPlanet for the iPhone and iPod touch is a pretty cool mash-up of detailed local information so you can search for a city, for example, and HearPlanet will tell you about all the things that are around you. There is detailed text, or better yet it will read the information to you.
Those with a 3G iPhone can use location services. HearPlanet will figure out where you are, and what things of interest are around you. The app finds items like museums, stadiums, zoos, and other landmarks or popular attractions. You click on one of the destinations, and the app starts reading about it. Some of the entries are short, others are quite detailed.
When you tap the play button HearPlanet switches you to speaker mode so you can share the information you're getting. It also makes it nice for car travel.
I wondered where all the information was coming from, and quickly found that most of the entries match the information in Wikipedia. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of each text entry, the source of the information is identified. This has apparently confused some users of the app who thought the information from Wikipedia was stolen, but it is all properly identified and sourced.
Happily, HearPlanet is not U.S. only. There is plenty of information on destinations all over the world.
HearPlanet is not a complete travel app. There are no phone numbers and no links to Google Maps for directions to destinations. But it has lots of details on things around you that are worth visiting, and you'll certainly learn something in the process.