Apps for On the Go
With the amount of new apps available to smartphone users increasing every day, I could probably post about the latest offerings every week. Nevertheless, a few of the latest mobile apps on the market to aid the traveler caught my attention this week. My personal tastes (and needs) skew toward Apple, but many of the same apps are available in Android formats as well. If you have any favorites that have helped you during your travels, I’d love to hear about them. Drop me a note or share a comment below. Here are a few to consider:
Apple iOS 6
Earlier this month, the Apple faithful gathered in San Francisco for the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. At the four-day event, software developers gathered to learn about new projects on the horizon from the tech giant. Developers also were able to peek under the hood for an early view of the new mobile operating system that will be available to the public later this fall: iOS 6. Among the many promising features are many applications designed for the traveler that are built right into the operating system. One, called Passbook, just seems to be common sense.
As its name implies, Passbook is a way of storing all of the travel documents you will need during a trip in one place. Have you gone paperless with your boarding pass yet? I haven’t given it a try. I always feel like I wouldn’t have the proper screenshot photo (or worse yet, won’t be able to find it) when I approach security, and would have to forfeit my place in line to print a pass. Well, if you’re like me maybe this feature will entice you to make the switch. According to early reports, any boarding pass you download to your iPhone will automatically appear in Passbook. Even better, the programming is time and place sensitive. It can tell you are at the airport and will automatically place the documents you need right on your lock screen. And if your gate changes without you knowing, your phone will alert you and direct you where to go…or so they say. Of course I haven’t seen it yet. The new operating system will also replace Google maps with Apple's own map application. Improvements include a 3D rendering of cityscapes, along with improved turn-by-turn navigation. I’m eager to download the new OS when the time comes.
At one time or another, we’ve all promised to pick up a friend or a family member from the airport. Of course the goal is to avoid having to park. Ideally we would time our arrival just right so that we can pull up to the curb and greet our loved ones outside baggage claim without having to drive numerous laps around the airport. Worse yet, we could hit traffic on the way—which always seems to happen to me. Need help? As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.” A free app (for a short introductory time) called Just Landed will ease your trip to the airport. Enter the incoming flight information and the app will do the rest. It will send an alert telling you when you should leave, automatically taking into account your location using your phone’s GPS along with the average travel time to the airport. It also takes into account possible delays by monitoring current traffic conditions. The app will make further adjustments based on flight time or terminal changes, as well as baggage claim information.
Looking for a ride across town and don’t want to pay for a cab? A new app called SideCar takes hitchhiking to a new level. Currently the service is only available in San Francisco, but other cities are expected to come online soon. Enter your current location and where you would like to go and drivers will come to you. Rides don’t cost travelers, but donations are suggested. It sounds like a novel idea, but I wonder whether it will work in practice. The app developers insist the service is safe, as drivers are licensed, insured and given background checks. Drivers are also monitored by GPS, and riders are able to seek help with 24-hour support. So mobile apps have disrupted most every industry. Are cab drivers next?
I’ve mentioned it before, but if you haven’t downloaded Explore Minnesota Tourism’s app, Active, you should. As its name implies, the app helps you find places to ski, hike, bike, and bird all close to home. Keep a list of favorites and share them with friends, either through the app itself or via other social media.