Top iPad Travel Apps and Accessories | Page 2

Getting There With Your iPad: Navigation

You can use an iPad for turn-by-turn navigation. The 3G models include a GPS receiver and use assisted GPS - supplementing GPS data with 3G triangulation - which is theoretically more accurate than GPS on its own. And a couple of mainstream GPS navigation software companies have now released iPad-compatible apps that show maps and directions in "HD," taking advantage of the iPad's larger screen.

Garmin earlier this year launched a new iPhone/iPad version of its StreetPilot product for $34.99. It's only available in North America with U.S. and Canada maps right now. TomTom also has an iPad-compatible app, with U.S. maps for $49.99, U.S. and Canada for $59.99, and for other regions from $59.99 to $119.99. We were unable to test either on our Wi-Fi-only iPad.

We did look at GPS Drive HD, an inexpensive $2.99 app from Fullpower-MotionX that provides most of the same functionality as the mainstream products. But it maps on the fly, downloading as you go - although you can also download maps before you set out and run simulations. Using its Live Voice Guidance feature, the audio directions, requires a subscription which costs $2.99 for 30 days, or $19.99 for a year.

The application interface is impressive enough. Visual routing is always free and GPS Drive even provides up-to-date (it claims) traffic information as an overlay on route maps. It will also calculate routes for either driving or walking. The company says millions of iPhone and iPad users have already downloaded the app.

To use the iPad for navigation in a vehicle, you'll need a dashboard stand and car lighter power adapter. There are several available, including from ProClip, which sells a combination of vehicle-specific car mount and product-specific holder for a whole host of mobile devices. The mounts mostly cost about $30, the iPad holder is $49.99.

To use the iPad for pedestrian navigation is perhaps more problematic. Do you really want to walk down the street cradling an iPad in the crook of your elbow? Perhaps someone will come up with a front pack for the iPad that you flip down to view the screen. (Or maybe somebody already has.)

On Location With Your iPad

A host of travel guides, map apps and handy-dandy tools are available to help you orient yourself, find things to do and places to eat, and convert, calculate and translate - including the free apps we mentioned in the planning section and more we'll mention here.

Need to translate a menu? There are a few free, multi-language translators available. Free Translator from Codesign, for example, which is ad supported, lets you translate to and from 48 languages. You choose a target language, English in this case, key in your phrase and Free Translator automatically figures out which language it is and translates the phrase. (Hmmm, but what about languages with words in common?)

There are others: check the App Store. But an iPhone and the same app would be just as or more useful. Ditto for a hardcopy phrasebook.

The major travel content providers - Lonely Planet, Frommer, Fodor's, etc. - all have apps, but they're mostly repurposed versions of existing print and online material, formatted for iPhone and/or iPad and sometimes, but not always, dressed up with "interactive" features. They typically cost.

If you've become very iPad-centric, they might make sense. But paper is just as good or better and possibly more convenient. And if you must use your iPad, you could always buy the e-book version of your favorite print travel guide.

But Fodor's has iPad-formatted guides for New York, Paris, London, Rome and San Francisco, for $5.99 a pop. Lonely Planet offers a free app that gives you its San Francisco guide and a free Mexican Spanish language translator. Its main purpose is to make it easier for you to choose and pay for one of its many other city guides, which cost $5.99 each. They appear to be simply repurposed print guides with the addition of interactive maps.

Frommer also has ten "complete" guides to cities, priced at $4.99 each. More promisingly, it offers the free Frommer's Tools, a collection of travelers' tools. But this app deserves its 2.5-star rating from users who have downloaded it.

A set of calculators (volume, length, temperature), for example, includes a currency calculator that delivered wildly wrong calculations in our testing. The app also includes a time translator, tip calculator, packing list utility and more. The flashlight tool basically turns the iPhone (this is an iPhone app that works on the iPad but has not been optimized for it) white for up to 30 minutes. Lame.

Maps are an equally difficult-to-justify investment given that you can access Google maps as long as you're online. But there are lots of maps offered for sale in the App Store, including maps of city subway systems that might be useful in an iPhone app, but are less so - though obviously easier to read - in an iPad app.

Using Your iPad to Expense It

Finally, there is the thorny business of travel expense reporting. While a smartphone, which is easier to pull out in any situation -- in a busy restaurant, say -- is probably a better solution for this function, if you're totally committed to the iPad, the same benefits apply.

You can pull out the device wherever you are and quickly key in an expenditure so the chances of forgetting it are reduced. Some mobile expense trackers can also be synched with a PC app for generating a final report. Others let you generate the report directly on the iPad (or iPhone.)

TripExpense ($4.99) from Velocell and TravelExpUniversal ($2.99) from MJT Enterprise, neither of which we tested, fall into the latter category.

With A1 Travel Expense Pro ($19.99) from Vaughn Clement, you can synch to a PC. This is more than an expense tracker. It also includes travel scheduler and search engines for restaurants and hotels, an agenda keeper and so on. The interface, however, is poor. While supposedly an iPad app, some pages overflow the width of the screen. And A1 doesn't support common multitouch gestures such as pinch and zoom and double-tapping.

Is the iPad the ideal travel computer? Maybe not, but if you can live with its deficiencies in mobility compared to a smartphone, for some users, it might be a better option than a laptop.

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