If you were lucky enough to get an iPhone or iPod Touch for Christmas then you might be wondering which apps you should be throwing onto it. Well, here’s the first in a series of posts that will show you how to use your device to improve your everyday life. Each of these ‘iPhone essentials’ articles will focus on a specific need and highlight the best apps to help you in that particular field. We kick off with a guide to the best stuff to install if you’re traveling. Whether you’re heading off on a round-the-World trip or simply a short city break, these free iPhone apps will help your travels go as smoothly as possible and ensure that you have a great time wherever go.
[Note: you’ll need iTunes installed to open the links in this post]
Find your way around with Google Earth
Google Earth is by far the most popular travel tool on the App Store – and deservedly so. It allows you to navigate the whole World, swishing across continents with a swipe of your finger before zooming into street level with a reverse pinch. As with the desktop version, Google Earth permits effortless switching between satellite and street maps, as well as offering tons of suggestions of places to visit and where to eat and drink.
Discover places to go with AroundMe
Presenting Google Maps’ mammoth database of businesses in a more accessible way, AroundMe helps you discover what’s around you based on your current location. It provides one-click access to lists of the nearest: banks, bars, cafes, gas stations, hospitals, hotels, movie theaters, parking, pharmacies, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, taxis and theaters. It’s very quick and easy to use, and is well stocked with information, even in areas that are further off the beaten track.
Manage your itinerary with Travelocity
Travelocity makes for a good personal assistant to have to hand throughout your whole trip. Not only does it help you track flights and book hotels, but it includes a wealth of destination guides and links to local events. It also offers shortcuts to car rentals and train tickets, flights, hotels and last minutes deals. I’d recommend this one for anyone who likes to act on the spur of the moment and plan their trips on the fly.
Travel smoothly with Live Flight Tracker
If your trip involves flying then Live Flight Tracker is well worth installing. As the name suggests, the free app lets you check the real-time flight status of any flight to and from the USA, Canada and the UK. You’ll need to register for a free FlightAware account first but once you’ve done that you’ll find the app very easy to use. It even includes full-screen radar maps outlining exactly where a particular plane is.
Break down language barriers with Free Translator
Not being able to speak the native language can get you into all sorts of bother. Carry Free Translator around and you’ll be able to get by in the local tongue. The app uses the Google translation engine (so you will need a data connection) to convert words and phrases to and from 32 different languages. It couldn’t be any easier to use – select your language, type the word then choose the destination language and hey presto, you’re fluent!
Check exchange rates with Currency Converter
Another essential tool if you’re heading for foreign shores is an exchange rate converter. If you want a free one on your iPhone you’ll do well to install Currency Converter. The app converts rates between 180 different currencies and four metals. All of the rates are completely up-to-date so you can ensure that you don’t get ripped off anywhere, and you can perform conversions based on different rates of commission.
Phone home with Skype
Rather than loading handfuls of coins into some far-flung phone box, install Skype on your iPhone and you’ll be able to call home cheaply, or even for free if you can find a WiFi connection. The iPhone version of the app is just as straightforward to use as the original and it will automatically import all of your contacts, allowing you to call them or chat via IM with the click of their name.
Don’t forget about Facebook!
If you’re a Facebook addict then the thought of spending days without the site will probably give you the shakes. Just install the brilliant official iPhone Facebook app and you’ll never miss out on the news about what your old next-door neighbor had for pudding or photos from all the parties that you’re missing while you’re away. The app even includes Facebook chat, so you can IM everyone while you’re sat on an eight-hour coach trip through the middle of nowhere.
Send photos back home with Flickr
Why wait until you return home to bore family and friends with your travel pics? The iPhone version of Flickr lets you upload pictures you’ve taken on your iPhone directly to your Flickr account with no hassle whatsoever. It can even apply your GPS location data to your photograph, so people looking at your photostream can see exactly where you were when you took the shots.
Come back in one piece with iFirstAid
If you’re planning to go off road or venture into hostile areas while you’re away then you’d be well advised to install iFirstAid Lite before you go – it might just save your life. iFirstAid includes helpful information about about a range of first aid topics, including CPR, bleeding, burns and poisoning. It also gives you emergency numbers for police, fire, ambulance and poison information center numbers for more than 80 countries.