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My favorite iPhone travel apps

TravellingEdward KiledjianComment

I recently completed a 15 day business trip that took me to 5 cities on 3 continents (more than 24,000 air miles return). This trip was an amazing opportunity to conduct some real world tests on some cool items I had been wanted to test for a while.

My first review was for the Red Oxx AirBoss carry-on bag. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you check it out.

Since buying my first iPhone about 2 years ago, it has become an indispensable life tool. This trip was no exception. This article talks about the apps I used and why I chose each.

Airline apps

I flew multiple airlines but the longest legs of my trip were done on Air Canada and British Airways. Before travelling, I loaded both apps on my iphone and made sure I configured my locator numbers in each. This allowed me to check my flight status and even check-in all from my device.

CardStar

As a one bag (onebag) traveller, you have to become a minimalist and my wallet is no exception. Instead of carrying dozens of loyalty cards with me (airline, hotel, card rental, retail chains, etc), I simply loaded all of the information into the free CardStar application before leaving and left thick pile at home.

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Skype WIFI

Most hotels, airports and restaurants now offer some kind of WIFI access but often times it isn’t free. If you are passing through an airport and want to send a quick email, it doesn’t make sense to buy a full day internet pass. Enter Skype WIFI with it’s by the minute invoicing. You simply load-up on Skype credits, and fire up the app at home to ensure it recognizes your initial credit amount. Then as soon as you get to a supported WIFI zone (over 1 million around the world and all listed in the app), you connect to the WIFI hotspot, load up Skype WIFI and accept the charges. You then go about your business as normal. When you are finished, you load the Skype WIFI app again, terminate the connection and voila, the charges stop. Most airports I visited offered Skype WIFI connections for 0.20CDN$ per minute.

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Language App

I have no mandarin vocabulary whatsoever so I loaded a free iPhone app called Huaying. It allows you to translate english words into Mandarin. It didn’t make me an expert but it was very useful when negotiating for goods, asking for a receipt or for conveying general ideas. This became one of my most useful apps during my trip.

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Evernote and the gang

If you have read my blog, you know I love Evernote. It is a free (premium version also available) note taking application that offers lots of features, offline support (with the premium version) and a bunch of useful 3rd party apps to store great memories.

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I installed the Evernote application, created an offline notebook and stored all my travel documents in there. A copy of my passpost, all travel confirmations, important addresses and telephone numbers, etc. If I needed something, it was quickly available from the app. If for whatever reason I lost my phone, I could still access the data via the web.

In addition to their base app, I installed the following partner applications:

  • Evernote Food : A great free way to catalog all of the original food you encounter during your trip. Link
  • Genius Scan+ : A great way to store JPG or PDF versions of documents while on the go. I made sure I kept a digital copy of every receipt so I had a backup in case I lost the originals. I stored all of the info locally and then uploaded it to Evernote via the hotel’s WIFI at night. Link

 

Business Card Scanners

Anytime I wanted to save a business card, I scanned it using 2 card scanning softwares.

CardMunch: This is a free software provided by Linkedin where scanned cards are manually transcribed for you. I like this software because its free and when transcribed properly, the information collection beats most other automated systems. There are a couple of issues I want to highlight though. Link

  • Sometimes their service is too busy and the app refuses to upload the scanned cards
  • Sometimes the human doing the transcription is less than diligent and they miss a tone of important information. In this case you can resubmit but it is a pain. There are some cards that I had to resubmit 2 or 3 times.
  • The app allows you to send a linkedin invitation to a contact you scanned but since the most recent update, 50% of the time this doesn’t work.

Scanbizcards: This is my main app and it uses optical character recognition to transcribe the card information. This OCR works in over 20 languages and is fairly accurate  but you will likely have to make some manual corrections. I find that this app is a lot more user-friendly than Cardmunch and the developers are super responsive to support requests.  This app also allows you to upload transcribed cards to various online services from jigsaw to evernote. Link

Trip planning

Where available, I made sure I had the mTrip travel planning app installed on my device.  This is a great app that can build sightseeing itineraries based on available time, preferences and mode of transportation. It uses your devices built in GPS to help guide you to the next location (and of course the plan is route optimized to start from your hotel and end there too).

mTrip also has offline maps for the city of covers so no worries about finding a WIFI connection to see your route.

Currency Converter

I loaded and used the free Oanda currency converter app to determine what the actual Canadian dollar price was of items I was interested in. You load the app in the hotel to updates its conversion table then have access to it throughout the day using the latest update.

Camera+

Sure I had a “real” camera with my but there are times when the iPhone’s camera was easier and quicker to use. For these situations, I use an app called Camera+

You can load it up and start taking pictures quickly or you can use its manual controls to make fine grain adjustments. I configured the app to store all my pictures in its built in lightbox, I can then edit or share them quickly directly from the app (saving the final version to my camera roll of course).

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PerfectlyClr

The other iPhone Camera app I have loaded is called PerfectlyCLR by Authentec. The app makes auto corrections to your pictures to make them that much better. I have found that this app performs really well for scenery pictures (cities, landscapes, building, cars, beach, etc). I compared the authentec desktop plug-in filters to the iphone app and the desktop version is much better. I like this app and am hoping they improve it even more over time.

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Are there any other apps you use during your travels?