I spent quite a bit of time before a recent trip to Europe investigating what iPhone Apps I might want, to take some of the hassle out of traveling. Most of the lists out there are for traveling around the US, not the “I’ve-switched-off-fetch-new-data-so -I-don’t-have-a-thousand-dollar-phone-bill-from-my-trip-to-London” kind of traveling I do. That means they have to work over Wi-Fi or utilize data that’s downloaded to your phone in order to be of any use. Unfortunately, in the app store these attributes are rarely mentioned, except in reviews by frustrated purchasers who realize they can’t use an app like they expected to.
Here’s what I found
Textie – Incredible. You can text over Wi-Fi without using any of your message allotment OR using minutes, and can even send texts to email addresses. The ad-supported version: FREE
Flight Track – Before your trip, just key in the details about your flights, and this app will track any delays or change in gates that may happen, giving you the updated information right at your fingertips. Plus the UI of this app is lovely, it’s very intuitive. Naturally, it does require a Wi-Fi or data connection to receive the uploads. The ad-supported version: FREE
All Subway – Download the maps of basically every subway system on Earth and have them all saved to your phone for later use. This app can be very slow, which may well have more to do with the age of my phone than the app. Cost: 99 cents.
Tube Deluxe – I think my favorite thing about this app is how when I fire it up, it tries to use my location to show me the nearest stations, and gets very confused at the fact that I’m 5329 miles from any of them. The maps all work without a connection, though the status of service/location features do require Wi-Fi or data. Cost: 99 cents.
Lonely Planet City Guides – Super-handy maps and details on restaurants, shops and attractions, all downloaded to your phone so that you can use them anywhere. Cost: Somewhat pricey at $5.99 each, but cheaper than the paperback book version.
eCurrency – Simply the best user interface for currency conversion that I’ve found. Use a calculator-like screen to type in the price of whatever you’re looking at, and it pops up the dollar amount so you know what you’re about to spend. It automatically updates the rates (when you have a Wi-Fi connection), and you can save favorite currencies for ease of use. Cost: 99 cents
Wi-Fi Finder – Not the fastest app I’ve ever used, but that’s probably because it’s downloaded known Wi-Fi hotspots in over 140 countries to your phone. So no need to have a connection to use it (cause, duh). It also has a nice map interface for helping you locate them (addresses don’t do much if you don’t know the streets around you). Cost: FREE
Dropbox – This app (and its online and desktop components) let you carry important documents wherever you go. I used to have to email copies of reservation and flight confirmations, important addresses and credit card numbers to myself so I knew I could at least get backup copies online. Now, I just drop the docs into a file on dropbox and I can read them anywhere. Works over Wi-Fi. Cost: FREE
Skype – This is the one true must-have app on this list. I recently conducted a 20-minute long call with an airline from my hotel room in Sweden, without paying a penny for it. Normal Skype-to-phone are usually a fraction of a penny a minute, and calls to 1-800 numbers are apparently free. If you have Wi-Fi, you have a phone. Cost: FREE