I think the best new products are those that leave a lasting impression—new technologies that, once you have been exposed to them and have used them for even a short time, make you wonder how you ever got by without them. I think my smartphone finally fits the bill.
I’ve only had my iPhone a little over a year, but already I’ve found it useful—no make that a necessary—when I’m on the road. (I think about how different a trip to an unfamiliar city is now with Google maps than it was just five or six years ago.) The ubiquitous touch screen technology mixed with open platforms for third-party app developers have made smartphones the useful tools they are today.
So do you have a favorite app that helps you along the road less traveled? Share your picks. Here are a few that I’ve found most useful. (My picks are based on Apple’s iOS operating system, but many of them are available in Android versions as well.)
OK, Google itself isn’t an app, but as I’ve mentioned before, the company’s map application has gotten me out of a jam more than once. From correcting a wrong turn to gauging how long of a walk it was from hotel to restaurant, it’s found a use time and again. Another application from Google turns your phone into a universal translator. It’s called Translate. Simply select which language you would like to start with, along with the language you would like your word or phrase to be translated to, tap the microphone button and speak into the phone. In a matter of seconds the translation will appear on your screen. Touch another button and it will read aloud your newly created phrase, a particularly useful function I’m sure.
A colleague showed me this useful application when she was planning a trip to Seattle. Keep all of your travel information in a single location. From car rental contracts to hotel itineraries, this app will track it all. A useful feature: Whenever you receive a confirmation email, simply forward it to a firstname.lastname@example.org and it will instantly recognize it and store your information; whether it’s a restaurant, concert or cruise, Tripit recognizes more than 3,000 booking sites across the Web.
This app is for the outdoor adventurer. Produced by The North Face, this app finds the best hiking and biking trails near you. Search the map for specific trails or simply let your phone’s GPS tell you what’s nearby. You can even create your own. Once you are on your favorite hike, simply hit record and Trailhead will map your trail and provide the distance you have traveled. Save it, post photos and share it with friends.
It’s old school, but this app turns your smartphone into the legendary notebook that has been associated with noted writers and travelers such as Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin. Pick your favorite Moleskine “paper” to write, take notes and sketch. Geotag every location you visit and insert your own images from your travels. Other features allow you to share your notes with friends.
As its name suggests, this app is the easiest way to find a table to suit your tastes, whether at home or on the road. I’ve used this application more than I thought I would when I first put it on my phone. Find locations on a map near your hotel or search restaurants by name. View photos, read reviews, peruse menus, and even book your table all without leaving the app. It’s a real time-saver.
These few selections only scratch the surface of the many thousands of available mobile applications to aid you in your travels. If you are planning to travel out of MSP International Airport, don’t forget these applications. For additional useful travel apps, find recommendations from Forbes, CNN and National Geographic.