Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travelling with an iPhone (part 1)

In spring 2000, I drove from Houston to KSC for the launch of space shuttle mission STS-101 with paper maps. I was the only one in my group who didn't have a cell phone at the time, and it was on that trip that I realized how useful it really was for coordinating a group of people who were staying at different hotels and making last-minute plan changes. I got my first cell phone shortly after, and as a direct result of, that trip. I think I'm on my 5th phone now, an iPhone 4, and looking back I'm amazed at how much I use it these days and how indispensable it is. I can't imagine not using it and wonder how we got along without smartphones.

With that in mind, I decided to go back and look at my iPhone and see what apps I used on my recent trips to KSC, about 11 years after that last trip in which I did not have a cell phone at all, as well as Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area, and update it for my upcoming Europe trip.

Part 1 of this post (since it got too long) looks at everything I used or plan to use while travelling, except the actual travel-related apps, which will go into part 2. Once I figure it out, I'll write another one about how I plan to manage a cell phone over there.

What do you use on your Smartphone while travelling?

These apps are on the bottom row of my iPhone, so they show up on every screen:
  • Messages for text msgs. After I leave the US, I'll probably move this off the main screen since I don't expect to have a data plan, instead using a free wifi-only text message app
  • Safari I can't even count how often I look stuff up, from finding the answer to a trivia question to reading the menu at a restaurant.
  • Phone was only used for long conversations or something that would take too long to type out to send as a text message, Twitter DM, or Facebook private message, or to talk to people who don't text. Plus, who uses their phone to actually talk to people any more? Don't expect to use this in Europe.
  • iPod was used mostly for when driving in the car, plugged into the AUX jack. Remember when you had to tune the radio to a new station every time you went to a new city? I will be using this a lot, I suspect, on trains. My netbook has enough room that I can put my entire iTunes library on it plus lots of movies ripped from my DVDs, so that I can keep it synced and updated.
These apps are on my main screen and were used fairly heavily during the trips:
  • Photos for viewing photos I recently took or for showing old pictures I uploaded
  • Clock for setting alarms
  • Mail always gets heavy use, used for checking in with people not on Twitter or FB, and for work (which I don't have at the moment). Will be checking in periodically.
  • Contacts added many people I met
  • Maps was used for calculating time and distance between cities while driving cross-country, didn't need as much while driving in the KSC area as I had a regular GPS with all my KSC locations; also for traffic in and around cities. In Europe, I won't be driving, only walking or taking the bus and train, so it'll be more of a "where am I and how do I walk to X" thing I bet.
  • Weather added destinations of where I was, and I'll add the next 3 or 4 cities ahead on my Europe itinerary (like maybe I can plan indoor stuff if it'll be rainy). I've also got the Weather Channel app but I don't really use it.
  • Notes, the default app, is on this page too, but I used it sparingly. I have downloaded OneNote and Evernote but have never really gotten into using them.
  • Camera got heavy use, for when my main camera wasn't working or wasn't handy
  • Facebook & Twitter used extensively for keeping up with what everyone else was doing and where they were going, and direct messages which were very helpful since I have a limited text message plan
  • Calendar used for figuring out schedules and adding appointments. In addition to my regular calendar, I've got my TripIt itinerary ICAL feed synced up to it
  • Foursquare for checking in
  • With the Settings button, I'll put my iPhone into Airplane Mode with Wifi, and not take it out until I get back to the US.
My next page has three rows of four groups, and four single apps which I use.
  • In Social, I used Flickr from time to time but not that much since I was too busy to post there. It's best for posting directly from the iPhone but I'd rather take better photos with my regular camera and upload them later. I tend to post instant pics from my iPhone to Twitpic anyway. In this group I also have Skype, TextPlus, and TextFree. I'll replace the Phone and Texting apps on my main screen with Skype and one of the two texting programs, once I figure out which one I like better.
  • In Utilities, among other apps I have MultiConvert and Find iPhone (which I hope I don't have to use).
  • In TV/Movies, I used DirecTV to set up a season pass for a show that I forgot to set up before I left. Since I'll be gone for a while I don't expect to get much use out of that or stuff like IMDB or Flixter.
  • In Travel, I used AroundMe to figure out hotels and gas stations for stops in transit between Houston and KSC.
  • In Online, I used MyAT&T to monitor my data and text usage, and it helped me find out that I had forgotten to close a streaming video app and used up 2/3 of my bandwidth allowance for the entire month in just day 3 of the monthly billing cycle. Handy in the US, not so much when I'm going to be overseas not using voice or data. I have also loaded up my DropBox folder with a bunch of things, from my resume to travel guide books, that I can download as needed. I also have some barcode/QR code readers like ZBar, Red Laser, and Scan, and in this folder I also have ESPN ScoreCenter so I can follow my teams while I'm gone.
  • In Photography, I chose not to use post-processing apps like Plastic Bullet or Instagram because I didn't have time. In retrospect, I wish I had used apps like Photosynth and Panorama to make wide shots. I have a couple of camera exposure apps (Exp. Lite and EV Calculator) for figuring aperture, shutter, and ISO settings in case I want to do something out of Auto mode.
  • Twitpict got heavy use to post photos
  • Light activates the back LED and was very handy as a flashlight.
  • SoundHound for capturing info on songs I heard on the radio that I later want to download
These are the apps that got into my main rotation on my recent trips. What do you use on your Smartphone while travelling?

Next up: part 2, in which I cover travel-specific apps.

1 comment:

  1. You don't. Ok, seriously, load skype onto your phone and you can use it to make calls in places where you can connect to wireless internet (remember, you have to load some money into your skype account if you are going to make skype to phone calls, skype to skype is free). for some cities LP has downloadable maps and travel guides (for a fee) which can be useful. However, most mapping requires 3G and you do not want to pay for international data. I have made in through many countries with no phone at all, you'll be fine, there will be computers and email everywhere. My old t-mobile phone received incoming international texts free and outgoing for 10 cents, but I don't think most other companies had similar service. (in fact, i've taken my iphone to london, israel, thailand and cambodia, and it has not pickjed up service at all, despite numerous calls to at&t asking them why). make absolutely sure international data roaming is disabled.