Airbnb's new app for tablets features magazine-style layout

Big photos of homes and the map view stand out prominently

Airbnb's new tablet app also uses a dual-pane view for reading and responding to messages.

Airbnb's new tablet app also uses a dual-pane view for reading and responding to messages.

Airbnb has developed a new app customized for iOS and Android tablets in an attempt to give those users a better way to browse its million-plus home rental listings than with the devices' web browsers.

The free app, to be released Wednesday, lets users navigate its content as if they were flipping the pages of a magazine. Airbnb, founded in 2008, already has mobile apps for iOS and Android smartphones.

The tablet app emphasizes big, high quality photos of people's homes arranged on the screen in varying layouts, which can be easily flicked through. With the tablets' larger screen size, pages for individual listings also feature photos and links to similar listings, resembling the look of a print magazine's sidebar article. Rotate the tablet from a horizontal to vertical position, and the app's interface will reorient itself.

There's also a more prominent placement of the map view, to let users search for listings and see where they are located in relation to each other. And the app features dual-pane messaging like a regular email client.

Those are new features that Airbnb's smartphone apps currently lack but may eventually gain, as the company looks to double down on mobile. Roughly 12 percent of Airbnb's users already access its site through the web on tablets, according to the company, and two-thirds of all Airbnb reservations involve mobile in some way.

But, "the tablet is a natural device for Airbnb. It's more photo driven," said Alex Schleifer, head of design at the company.

Airbnb has over the past year cleaned up its desktop site and its mobile apps to make them easier to use and help people discover more listings. The company spotlights themed listings like "traditional yurts" or "underground homes," as well as getaways in select areas like California's wine country or Lake Tahoe. Last year, the company added an instant booking feature, which does away with the traditional pre-approval process for reserving places to stay.

As Airbnb strives to make its service more appealing to more people, it faces regulatory questions over its legality in some cities like New York.

The tablet app will be available to download Wednesday at 9 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time in the Apple App and Google Play stores.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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