The year is 2014. All over the planet, faces are glued to miniature screens of varying size and shape.
Some boast retina display, some do not. Inside these clever little rectangles, a wealth of information sits idle, ready and able to help a plucky user to enhance their life. Or at the very least look up some cat videos on YouTube.
Whatever you choose to do with your phone, there’s no denying that when paired with the applications you can download onto them, they can be incredibly useful tools for travel. Whether you need help getting around, speaking the lingo, capturing your journey or just want to kill a bit of downtime, chances are there’s an app for it. The trouble is that unless you’re prepared to pay a bucket-load of international roaming fees, have picked up a local SIM card or have free Wi-Fi at hand, a good chunk of the apps that require 3G or internet connection are rendered relatively useless (or expensive).
Below, you’ll find a rough guide on how to turn your phone into the Swiss Army Knife of mobile travel tools, with a set of apps that remain useful (and phone-bill friendly) when 3G or Wi-Fi are out of the question or in limited supply.
City Maps2Go | Free | IOS
City Maps 2Go is perhaps the ultimate smartphone map directory available. If you know where you’re visiting on your trip, you can download maps for cities, provinces and villages and refer to them at the touch of a button, even when you’re offline. Even if you’re heading somewhere obscure – like Helmand Province in Afghanistan – this 7500+ strong directory will likely have a map for it. These aren’t the most interactive maps out there, but they’re detailed enough for you to find your bearings and locate places of interest, and in terms of offline practicality they’re virtually unrivalled.
Lonely Planet | Free – $10.49 | IOS, Kindle, Android
Lonely Planet needs no introduction. This globe-trotting travel company has seen and done it all, then seen and done it all again, twice. And with its wide range of apps, it ensures travellers need never be lonely again. With individual guidebook apps for cities, regions and countries, as well as phrasebooks, audio walking tours and more, all you, the traveller, need do is download your required documents before you set off. With information as detailed as this at your fingertips, you’ll have a backstage pass to any destination you visit.
Amazon Kindle | Free | IOS, Kindle, Android
The much-imitated king of the eReaders, Amazon’s Kindle is an extremely useful companion for any trip. Whether you’re killing time in the airport, relaxing on a far-flung beach or trying to wind down after a long day’s hike, having something good to read is prerequisite to making the most of down time. Once you’ve got the app, simply sign in with your Amazon details (or create an account), then head towww.amazon.com/kindlemobilestore to download whichever books you please. Once downloaded, reopen the Kindle app, hit the sync button and your books will be available on your device. Magic.
Adobe Photoshop Express | Free | IOS, Android
Whilst it’s no rival for the computer edition, the mobile version of Adobe Photoshop is a handy tool for editing those snaps caught by your smartphone. Simply select your picture in-app (or take a new one) and work your magic. As well as the usual cropping, contrast, saturation, hue and tint tools, the app comes with a nice selection of borders and effects you can compliment your photo with. And if you’ve got a Wi-Fi connection handy, you can share your newly-edited photo with friends and family via email, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, straight from the app.
Camera+ | $0.99 | IOS
This app has been given the thumbs up by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, and it’s fair to say that this is the best mobile camera app available. It boasts a range of features that’ll have you fiddling around with it for hours, and for those unscripted travel moments when your digital camera is out of reach, this little guy steps up to the task nicely. Enabling you full control of exposure, focus and zoom, as well as boasting a range of shooting modes and a built-in editing suite to rival Adobe Photoshop Express, Camera+ will help your mobile snaps outshine any old point-and-shoot. It’s no rival to an SLR, but it does a pretty fine job regardless.
Free Wi-Fi Finder | Free | IOS, Android
In our fast-paced, ever connected world, the need for a good internet connection is sometimes hard to avoid. In these instances, the Free Wi-Fi Finder app will help you pinpoint the nearest hotspot. You may have to purchase a coffee or similar item to be able to use it, but it certainly beats those international roaming fees.
Evernote | Free | IOS, Android
This note taking, cloud-syncing, clean-looking app is a dream to use. It’s a great place to store all of your useful information – flight times, hotel names, addresses, conversion rates – you name it. You can also use it as a handy travel journal, as it lets you to upload photos and audio to notes and it tags your location to each post (providing 3G or Wi-Fi is enabled). You can also create multiple notebooks to keep all your information/journals separate, so you’ll know where everything is once you get home. And if you do happen to come across a computer on your travels, you can log on to Evernote online and embellish your entries. Easy!
Triposo | Free | IOS, Android
Something of a masterpiece in the world of travel apps, Triposo boasts a vast catalogue of destination-specific information. If you’ve got access to 3G, or have found a café with Wi-Fi to post up in for a while, Triposo will let you know what practical amenities and sights are nearby, where the best restaurants are and suggest things for you to do. If 3G isn’t an option, simply download the in-app travel guides before you arrive at your destination and enjoy a wealth of offline information (including in-depth local history) on the fly.
Cut the Rope | $1.99 | IOS, Android
It might be a little dated now, but Cut the Rope is still a winner in our books. Brought to us by the same company that made the ridiculously addictive mobile game, Angry Birds. We know promoting video games on a travel site may seem a bit backwards, but as a traveller, you can often find themselves in particularly boring situations – airport transit lounges, long and not-so-scenic train rides – so occupying your brain with games such as this can help pass the time. Besides, despite its childish, cartoon image, this is actually a pretty perplexing puzzle game – perfect for helping the hours roll by faster. If you’re still not sold, you can try it out before you download it.
Podcasts | Free | IOS
Like the Kindle, having a good range of Podcasts at your disposal means the less-exciting elements of travel will never be too unbearable. Some Podcasts are free and some you have to pay for, but you can rest assured you’ll always find something you like: from the comedic offerings of Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais to news and current affairs shows, drama series and everything in-between. There’s also a good range of video Podcasts too, should you require a little more than audio to entertain you. Simply download your desired Podcasts before you embark on your trip and you’ll be armed with hours of entertainment for every eventuality.
Feature image c/o Johan Larsson, Flickr