Mobile App Guide: Nifty Navigation and Travel iPhone Apps
R.E.M. released one of the best songs of the '80s, Can't Get There From Here, around the same time the first Back To The Future movie hit theaters. That film and its sequels presented the then distant future of 2015 as a time of flying skateboards and automobiles. With 2011 just around the corner, it is safe to assume those particular modes of transportation are still quite a few years - if not decades - away. Even so, there are plenty of ways today's technology makes it a lot easier to, if not get there from here, then at least map out how to get there from wherever here happens to be.
Sometimes circumstances--say if your car breaks down or a river swells over the road or - say - a volcano erupts spewing clouds of ash into the atmosphere--makes driving or air travel difficult if not impossible. With standalone GPS navigators and smartphones such as the iPhone, however, you'll never be at loss for directions, helpful hints (such as how to ask for the nearest bathroom in a local language, more convenient than you'd think), and other useful travel and navigation tips.
With the right apps installed, you'll always have the information you need at your fingertips. An iPhone can tell you, for example, if there's traffic on the way to a destination (in real-time); redirect you should you make a wrong turn; lay out points of interest along the way; and assist by connecting you with help in the event of an emergency. When traveling abroad, meanwhile, your iPhone can provide you with the latest currency exchange rates and give you a hand in translating useful phrases (a la the aforementioned lavatory example) to make communication with locals and your overall travel experience that much better.
This article provides a roadmap to the best navigation, travel and (as a bonus) local bus/subway apps available for both professionals and consumers (frequent and not-so-frequent travelers alike) on the App Store. Use it as a guide for yourself or, if you are an IT professional, keep our list handy, as with the other articles in our ongoing series of best apps for the iPhone, for making recommendations to the people you are charged with helping in your organization when they come to you for guidance, which they surely will.
AAA TripTik (Free, download)- Loaded with tons of routing, navigation and points-of-interest information; shake of iPhone recalculates route from your current location.
AT&T Navigator (Free, download)- Provides voice-guided navigation and turn-by-turn driving directions with real-time traffic updates and more.
AroundMe (Free, download)- Uses your current position to determine what businesses (e.g. bank, bar, gas, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, theater, taxi, etc .) are nearby.
Spyglass ($4.99, download - Nifty augmented reality navigation tool with built in compass; displays information right over your iPhone's live camera feed.
TomTom U.S.A. ($39.99, download)- iPhone edition of one of the most popular GPS navigation devices on the market; over 25 additional versions this app are available for regions on nearly every other continent. (see here)
Traffic.com Pro ($2.99, download)- Avoid congestion with this real-time GPS-based traffic app; free edition (download) sports annoying ads. Traffic View 2010 ($1.99, download)- Streams live images from over 7,000 traffic cameras in more than 100 cities across the country.
Waze (Free, download)- Social media app connects drivers so they can help each other out with real-time traffic info.
Airport Guide ($3.99, download)- All purpose travel guide for frequent flyers incorporates data on airport status; flight tracking; listings of restaurants, cafes & retail stores; terminal maps; Wi-Fi coverage and much more.
Airport WiFi ($0.99, download)-Database of Wi-Fi availability (both free and paid) for over 10,000 airports.
Appbox Pro ($0.99, download)- A Swiss Army Knife of a utility package with an alarm clock; digital wallet and security features; mirror; flashlight; loan calculator; translator; etc.
Amazon Kindle (Free, download)- Leave your standalone eReader at home with this mobile app version of Amazon.com's bestselling device.
Avis Reservation App (Free, download)- Find the nearest Avis car rental location and reserve an automobile from the palm your hand. Babelingo ($1.99, download)- Provides over 300 phrases and words in 11 languages, with 110 different language combinations.
Cab4Me ($1.99, download)- Locate cab company then call a taxi and get picked up from wherever you are; estimate fare and calculate route to your destination.
Call a Taxi ($1.99, download)- Promises to get you talking to the nearest and cheapest taxi company to your location in two clicks.
Cambio (Free, download)- Universal currency, length, weight, temperature, volume, area, energy, pressure, speed and time converter.
Cheap Gas! (Free, download)- Steers drivers to lowest price gas stations.
Facebook (Free, download)- Stay connected with friends through number one social networking site when at home or abroad.
Flight Update ($4.99, download)- Flight tracking and timetable service for over 1400 airlines worldwide.
Foursquare (Free, download)- Mobile app for location-based social networking site that's currently under threat from Facebook's integration of its Places function..
GateGuru (Free, download)- Delivers maps of airports ands and reviews of retail and food establishments and amenities.
Gate Maps ($0.99, download)- Provides offline gate map and information for 38 airports around the U.S.
GPS-Eat-Shop ($1.99, download)- quickly locate a place to eat, shop, or drink.
Google Earth (Free, download)- Travel and learn about the planet from the palm of your hand; features amazing global satellite, aerial imagery, and hi-resolution pictures.
HearPlanet ($4.99, download)- Audio guidebook to historic sites, attractions, landmarks and more in cities and countries around the world; covers over 300,000 locations. Try out Lite edition (Free, download) before you buy.
Hertz (Free, download)- Find the closest Hertz location to rent a car, just like the Avis app mentioned above.
HotelPal (Free, download)- Browse and book a room from over 100,000 hotels around the world.
InnTouch (Free, download)- Details and photos on thousands of Bed & Breakfasts as well as boutique hotels; plan ahead or find one nearby your current location.
iTranslate ($0.99, download)- Budget yet accurate translation application covering words, phrases and sentences into 52 languages.
iTriage (free, download) - Data on thousands of symptoms ailments; uses GPS to direct you to the nearest medical service providers and even offers average costs for medical procedures.
LingoLook Flashcards ($4,99 each, download) - Reasonably priced flash card series with interactive phrasebooks (words and phrases, audio translations, illustrated flashcards with large type and phonetics, etc.) for travelers to China, Italy, Japan, France, Mexico, Germany, and India.
LiveATC Air Radio ($2.99, download) - Listen in on live conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers the next time you are stuck in an airport or on a plane.
LocalEats ($0.99, download) - Locate a restaurant in all major U.S. cities (plus Toronto and Vancouver), and thousands of local favorites in smaller cities and towns. Filter results by cuisine, neighborhood, savings, price range, hours, etc.
Lonely Planet Phrasebooks ($0.99 - $5.99, download)- Available for many different languages, these phrasebooks consists of audio phrases spoken by locals. Just find what you want to say and play the end result to the person with which you are trying to communicate.
My Vacation ($3.99, download) -Travel planner and interactive journal for those on vacation.
Night Stand (Free, download) - Turns your iPhone or iPod touch into travel alarm clock with local weather.
OpenTable (Free, download) - Locate an eatery and book reservations at more than 12,000 different restaurants in multiple countries.
Packing Pro ($2.99, download) - Remember to bring (as well as track and organize) all the items you need for a trip; create personalized packing lists for every person in your family from over 800 pre-configured as well customized items and lists.
Pano ($2.99, download) - Take panoramic pictures with your iPhone's built-in camera.
Postman ($2.99, download)- Create and share custom postcards from pictures you've just taken, one already in your iPhone's library, or a Google Maps screen shot of your location.
Priceline Hotel Negotiator (Free, download) - Bid for discounted hotel; current version supports airport rental cars as well.
Road Trip Fun ($0.99, download) - Keep a car full of family and friends happy and occupied on your next road trip; contains instructions for a number of games, such as I Spy, 20 Questions, License Plates, etc.
Room (Free, download)- Often forget your hotel room number? No problem with this simple app; stores the location of where exactly you're staying.
Skype (Free, download) - Make and receive cheap Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages; save a lot on international calls and SMS messaging when traveling abroad.
Trapster (Free, download) - Automotive app alerts you to approaching speed traps, traffic cameras, police check points, accidents, and other roadway hazards.
TripCase (Free, download) - Organizes, aggregate and share trip information; receive real-time flight alerts and travel updates.
Urbanspoon (Free, download) - A fun way to find a good nearby restaurant using GPS: spin the wheel with a shake of your iPhone to receive suggestions on where to find some good eats.
WeatherBug (Free, download) - The best and most comprehensive local weather and forecast application on the app store; puts Apple's native iPhone app to shame.
Whizzer ($0.99, download)- Locate clean bathrooms with the amenities you need (e.g. baby changing stations, 24 hour access, showers, etc.); covers over a million user-rated restrooms worldwide.
Wi-Fi Finder (Free, download) - Guides you to over 320,000 free and paid hotspots in more than 140 countries.
Wikihood (Free, download) - Quickly learn about the world around you; thousands of cheap data packages available for purchase in-app for offline viewing.
World Customs & Cultures (Free, download) - Compiles customs and cultural information for over 165 countries covering greetings; communication style; personal space and touching; eye contact; views of time; gender issues; gestures; taboos; as well as law and order.
Yellow Pages (Free, download) - Let your fingers do the walking through this virtual edition of the encyclopedia-thick local listings mainstay.
Yelp (Free, download)- Easily locate a restaurant or other point of interest nearby; sports augmented reality mode that overlays business data on the world around you, as seen through your iPhone's camera.
Zagat to Go ($9.99, download)- Ratings and reviews from over 45 of Zagat's restaurant guides; offline mode means app doesn't require a cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
Public Transit Guides
Below is a selection of iPhone apps to help you get around some local subways and bus systems. These are just a tip of the iceberg: No matter what city you travel to worldwide, there is surely a metro guide in the form of a mobile application suited to your needs.
Catch The Bus ($0.99, download)- Details all routes in San Francisco's Muni and Boston's MBTA bus systems.
CTA Tracker ($0.99, download) - Lets you know how much time is left until the next bus in New York City.
Exit Strategy NYC Subway Map ($3.99, download) - MTA subway, bus, and street maps with 'exit strategies' for each subway station in NYC.
Fahrplan (Free, download) - Shows date timetable information for German public transportation. iCommute SF ($2.99, download)- Route information and real-time arrival predictions for San Francisco's Muni & BART bus and metro systems.
MassTransit ($3.99, download)- Boston's subway, bus, commuter rail, and ferry schedules.
MetrO (Free, download)- Guides you through public transportation systems for over 400 cities around the globe.
Metro Paris Subway ($0.99, download)- Guide and maps for traveling on the Paris, France subway system.
myTransit ($0.99, download) - Track buses with Chicago Transit Authority's real-time tracking system.
NextTrain DC Metro ($0.99, download)- Tells Washington DC riders how many minutes are left until the next train arrives.
NYC Subway 24-Hour KickMap ($2.99, download) - Mobile guide to NYC's subway system.
Seattle Bus Map ($4.99, download)- Lays out up-to-the-minute locations all Seattle, Washington busses.