17. May 2012–
Finally. An intelligent, unpretentious platform for haute culture savants and globetrotters. Whew! And we thought we'd stay beholden to Wallpaper, the occasional Taschen tome, Zagat, and hearsay forever. When the team behind Unlike asked us to have the first play with their much-anticipated iOS app, we were thrilled. (Unlike iOS app available in private beta today.)
A location-based social platform for globetrotters and tastemakers
After a period of hibernation, Unlike emerges in full swing with a carefully curated escapist's guide for exploring eighteen of the most compelling cities in the world: not only the obvious set (the New Yorks, San Franciscos, Shanghais, and Miamis), but also Cape Town, Ibiza, Vienna, Sao Paolo, Munich, Copenhagen, and Warsaw...
While Berlin oldschooler Marley Fabisiewicz and his crew of veteran coolhunters (including top developer CTO Philipp Nowakowski) are calling it a user-generated city guide, it's really so much more than that. For the soon-to-be addicted target audience, the new Unlike app serves up a global live stream of boulangeries, pitch dark dive bars, schnitzels, Clubs Called Rhonda, penthouse pedicures, and upholstery arcades.
A travel guide generator for the Rauschenberg-Rick Owens set
Unlike the previous version, the new app includes not only editorial content but also user-generated content. You can create guides (and that's the new gimmick), but in order for them to reach the wide stream of aesthetes, they need to be approved by the Unlike team to get featured. SOTO founder Philip Gaedicke and Boris Radczun of Grill Royal and KingSize, are among the first to come out of Berlin. It's not just a useful app for your business trips. It's a way of connecting tastemakers and trendsetters around the globe with unique, essential and inspiring places.
The first thing the app does is ask you to sign into Facebook. Not because it's about to pull out your friends' likes or events, but because it's going to show you who's already on Unlike and let you share. Chances are, at least for a couple weeks, these people will be genuinely cool. (Although there's no invite post-private beta, the quality of the niche seems self-selective.) For those to join, taking care of it will be an obligation in kin with watering the flowers, or waxing the Harley.
The interface: how it moves, well, it glides
The interface is flawless. Unlike's CTO Philipp Nowakowski, also CTO of mobile and app development agency Up-Next (behind the DLD app and also Giga's) has been on the team as software developer since 2008 and his familiarity shows. The buttons, clicks, flags, and transitions all seem to glide on ice. It is the type of interface you'd make a habit of browsing, immediately after landing in a new city, say, fittingly in business class with your Tumi shoulderbag underfoot. To use a phrase my friend introduced me to last week, it is so "un-Internet," (no delay, no typing, no wifi awareness, no sense of nearby bugs or crashes...).
Editorially it's a bit snarky, sophisticated, beautifully unchallenging
The writing alone makes the app a writer's dream. The language is devious and delicious (think tea-sipping while lounging in a coyote fur hammock while browsing fabric samples). Unlike's Editor-in-Chief Simon Harris describes himself on Twitter as "king of content @Unlike." His personal blog is worth bookmarking.
His commissioned crew of lifestyle ambassadors are diligently putting out top quality reviews, and the voices aren't so distant from each other enough that you notice separate personalities. In other words, the voice is unified. The style is not at all Harper's Bazaar (i.e. it's not selling you anything), not at all newsy, styled in cultural know-how but not at all stuffy.
The content is prime. (There's no email@example.com up in here)
In a landfill of e-commerce sites which are doing everything they can to hack off quality, Unlike's hand-picked vibe is a pleasure and a treat. Every featured venue includes the convenience of a direct, consistent, link leading to the venue's website (off site, so you're not annoyed), as well as the ability to directly email the owners or managers (in the case of Dr. Pong, the recommended email was 'firstname.lastname@example.org,' for instance, which looked a bit curious but nonetheless hand-submitted). You don't get the sense that you'll get any email@example.com dead ends here.
A little globe in the corner flips the screen and shows you the place on GoogleMaps. Nice, easy-to-use support.
You can also call each venue by telephone through an easy click, a feature which may not prove useful to myself (we're usually booking online) but nonetheless reflects a certain effort and quality that we respect. In some cases (last minute dinner reservation at Katerschmaus), an easy phone call is still incredibly useful.
Is it the new Wallpaper, or a whole new animal?
The two can co-exist, though there's something so all-inclusive about Unlike. It's like Wallpaper in its essence (in fact, Fabisiewicz came up with idea when browsing through a Wallpaper San Francisco edition), but even on the content side different: darker, more decadent, a little less "casa sutra," less MOMA design shop, more Berlin. It probably wouldn't recommend you a pair of lifestyle loudspeakers. More likely, it'd lead you to a roof-top where Courtney Love is downing whisky and considering a candid performance across a wooden picnic table of Argentinian soccer players.
You can't bash places. Or unlike anything, for that matter. At least not yet.
When we first opened our 'places nearby' feed, Dr. Pong came up, an all-night ping pong joint literally across the street from my flat, appropriate described by the app as "a rugged little dingy bar in the heart of Prenzlauerberg, reminiscent of a teenage club clubhouse." Given multiple negative drips (despite the fair and straight-forward American owner Arthur), we looked for a thumbs down option. What did we find? Only the option to save (+), hype (thumbs up), or share it. Well, there was the option to report it, but that was too harsh.
Since downloading, we keep going back. Is this app going to prove habitual, or just for when travelling?
Then it sets in: I'm always traveling.