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Review: Detour – immersive audio tours

This GPS-enabled app guides you as you wander

Price: Free
Version: 4.0
Size: 73.2 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad

Get Detour

Update! Let’s get the bad news out of the way first – Detour is dead. So, you may ask, why are we bothering you by updating this review? The answer is that quite a lot has happened in the last few years…

So what’s new? The app was sold in April 2018 to Bose, the major audio brand. Andrew Mason, the Groupon founder who started the app reported that Bose would be seeking a new partner to help transfer the software and its content to Bose’s audio AR platform that was currently in development. However, as of summer 2020, Bose has given up on its new platform leaving the future of Detour’s content uncertain. However, if you were interested in the Mason’s work, the sale meant he started focusing on Descript, a collaborative audio/video editor that behaves like a doc leaving its possibilities endless – it’s definitely worth reading up on.

Revised rating: Sadly, it is now irrelevant 🙁


Our original review, written in February 2018, is presented in its entirety below.

So often confined to stuffy museums, audio guides deliver recorded information in voices that are usually just as stuffy. But Detour, now on version 4, throws out the tedium and takes you out to the streets, placing you at the very heart of its varying subject matters.

The app uses a combination of GPS, recorded audio, maps and AR to provide users with an incredibly rich experience. We tested the app in major capital city, London, but it’s also available in a range of other locations such as New York, Barcelona, and Rome.

Pick a walking tour to get started

Its key selling point is the stories it allows the protagonists themselves to tell. These walking tours are often narrated by those either at the center of the story, or with an expert bent on the subject matter. Take London’s ‘West End: The Suffragettes’ tour which walks you around this area of the city, taking in the locations of famous points in the Suffragettes’ timeline. The audio tour is narrated by Dr Helen Pankhurst – daughter of Suffragette leading figure Emmeline Parkhurst.

A map will show the route you will take, and how long you’ll be on the tour for

The variety in just one city is wide too – while there aren’t tons of guides, the 15 or so go right across the city, visiting the Caribbean flavors of Brixton’s cultural hub, to surviving the Blitz in WWII south of the river.

One of the best tours we tested was Mayfair: A Spy’s Guide. This guides you around the area of everyone’s most sought after Monopoly property, guided by former spy and eventual whistleblower Annie Machon, who worked for MI5 at the end of the Cold War. The fascinating 3.3 mile trip takes you past her old office buildings – regular, normal looking properties that you’d never consider were once locations for espionage.

Enable the AR mode and it will guide you to your start location and next stop

The app is incredibly easy to use, and well designed to boot. If you fire up the app, you can search for a tour nearby – while it will also tell you if one is close. Tap on the guide – of which there are many free ones – and you’ll be shown where to head to on the map.

There’s even an AR mode, making use of Apple’s very latest technology. If you tap on this mode it will open the camera and provide a green walking route and arrows to either the start point, or the direction of the guide, with a familiar point of interest symbol indicating your next stop.

If you don’t fancy the AR mode, a picture version will show you where you need to go

In this regard you can follow the tour visually so it’s almost impossible to get lost, but you can just as easily put your phone back in your pocket and let your guide be your… well, guide. Each recorded voice includes instructions in their narratives, telling you to turn right, or left and which roads to walk down. We found it incredibly accurate despite the tall, often signal blocking office buildings and Annie was able to recognize when we’d reached the next stop and would continue her story accordingly.

The app ticks off each stop automatically and triggers the next story using GPS as you move

The amount of free content Detour provides is impressive, especially for such a well-developed app, and the tours are incredible fun. Our spy tour was also available for two people – syncing the tour meant you could follow along with a partner and halfway through Annie provided a task which involves the two of you splitting up and one trying to catch the other.

We highly recommend Detour and implore any seasoned traveler to give it a shot.