I’m getting ready to go on a journey of 1800 miles. Along with checking my car and packing my bags, and selecting a range of premium road food items at the Trader Joe in my area (ah, Sweet and Salty Trail Mix! …) I’ve loaded my Blackberry with helpful software that can help me when I’m on the road.
While some rural areas do not have coverage for data, by today, most interstate corridors have, and so does nearly every town, which is reasonable. At best, I’ll end up in a blackout zone for data at times, typically as I travel the roads between towns, in which I don’t have to search for anything. (Just to be safe, I’m in a hurry, I’ve marked my path on an atlas of current roads and have printed details about any information I know I’ll definitely need to research during my travels. )
With location-aware phones increasing in popularity, phones can help take the pain from driving. From finding places to eat or refill your gas tank, to avoiding traffic congestion and speed traps, the people at Apple claim, “there’s an app for this .”
Here are the ones that I’ve chosen as essential. I’ve listed them in categories with the name of the app that I use on my Blackberry, as well as naming some alternatives in the event that the application isn’t accessible on other platforms.
- Maps even if your smartphone isn’t GPS enabled; however, as long as you’re connected to a cell phone, today’s phones can locate your location pretty accurately. While there are a lot of high-quality paid apps available but I’m completely content with the free and open-platform Google Maps (you can download one, a couple, or all of the Google Mobile apps at that link). Google Maps does a great job at creating directions, locating local businesses, listing the major metropolitan areas that are prone to traffic, and if you’re not too concerned about privacy implications, it lets selected relatives find out where you’re at (using the latest Latitude system). ).
- Local Search Google Maps is pretty excellent, however, sometimes, a local search app can locate companies that Google does not – or provide other details in a simpler manner than Google. On my Blackberry, I love Poynt. It’s sleek, simple to navigate, and can do local searches as well as movie streaming (for when I’m at home). It also includes maps. However, as I mentioned, I prefer Google Maps best. Similar apps for other platforms comprise Live Search Mobile for Windows phones as well as Yelp Mobile to iPhone (non-iPhones have access to Yelp using their phone’s internet browser also). The Palm users are locked into Google Maps, which sucks because, once upon a while, they had the top among all search engine applications, Vindigo, now gone for good.
- TwitPic technically is not an application, TwitPic is nonetheless useful when you travel, and you might not have time or the ability to download images and send pictures to family and friends when you travel. Instead, snap a photo using your cameraphone, then email the image to your own private TwitPic email account (under “Settings” – TwitPic is completely free, by the way) to get the photo uploaded online, and then the tweet is sent automatically to Twitter via a link. Any phone that has an email address is able to use it, though certain Twitter clients include TwitPic features built-in as well.
- Twitter client: On Blackberry, There’s really only TwitterBerry. If you’re using Palm Treos, there’s MoTwit. Windows Mobile users like PocketTwit. The iPhone user has 16.482 various Twitter client options to pick from, and all are great. The point is, you’re traveling – forget email. Don’t bother with postcards. Tweet. One hundred forty characters starting from the base of Carhenge (in Alliance, Nebraska Go now if you’ve not been!) or the edge of the Grand Canyon is enough. You can keep the words for when you return.
- GPS Tracking: Follow every single step of your journey using a reliable GPS tracking application. The most effective are those that create a stream that can be merged with the geotagged images to produce a map of your journey; however, even if you aren’t able to (maybe your camera doesn’t have geotags?) You can still make an impressive map by using some sort of GPS-like application on devices like your Blackberry, iPhone, Win Mobile, and Symbian device. (Sorry, Palm users – if you’re hoping for a consolation, perhaps the launch of the Pre next month will entice developers? Meanwhile, Garmin used to make a decent GPS tracking application that was offered with its Bluetooth GPS devices – and may still do. )
- Qik: Qik falls into an entirely separate category that allows you to stream live video directly from your smartphone. In a remarkable twist, iPhones aren’t supported (yet), but everyone else can find their phone on the list of supported phones. The streaming of videos using your phone can go through your battery quickly, so be sure to have a car charger on hand…
- Picture Shopping: On the road, you’re not shopping for everyday necessities. A wood-carved representation of Mt. Rushmore definitely but not a resting place to rest your hand on. Today, image recognition technology lets users to use apps with camera capabilities to shop. You just snap a picture of what you’d like to purchase, and the app determines the item. On the Blackberry, it’s Amazon Mobile, which will include the item in the Amazon Wishlist (or you can buy it right away once the photo is recognized, which can take around 10 minutes – it’s not buying it on the spot! ) It’s also available on the iPhone. iPhone users have another option but it’s not as good: SnapTell(also available for Android phones). SnapTell claims to work better and has more search options than Amazon.
- Speed Trap Finder: Trapster gathers information on thousands of people to alert you about speed traps that are coming up, such as red-light cameras, speed traps, and checkpoints, so you can be aware of the upcoming events. To ensure that information is accurate, Trapster adds importance to reports verified by multiple users. Additionally, you can decide what amount of trust you wish to react to. Trapster is compatible with all phones but not Treos (and Android, it appears to ).
- Weather There are millions of them, choose one. Make sure you choose one that allows you to track weather from multiple locations and also add your location for every day. I personally use WeatherEye (to help me save memory I use only WorldMate as shown below when traveling on planes). Unfortunately, it isn’t able to add a second city but it gives fairly good forecasts for long- and short-term which cover that.
- The Travel Planner WorldMate operates across Blackberry as well as Windows Mobile; you’ll have to look for alternative platforms, since I’m not aware of anything similar to it. WorldMate records itineraries and also sends reminders to you regarding flights and other important occasions. It also provides weather information for multiple locations as well, so check #9 above if you’re using WorldMate. The best part about WorldMate is it allows you to forward confirmation emails for reservations to them, and they’ll add them to your itinerary. They perform a decent job of obtaining the necessary information as well!