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Travelling can be a zen thing; an escape. Some might enjoy the feeling of leaving behind their email account, others prefer to have their smartphone alive.
In the following pages are some travel apps that we think are well worth using to let your smartphone add value to your trip. Please note that some of these apps will be better with, or will require you to have, an internet connection. They were all tested on an iPhone 4, but we have noted if they're available on any other mobile operating systems.
Onavo is your data-limit hero. In a nutshell, Onavo will compress your data, so that what you use will cost you less. Not every internet service will get the benefits of Onavo compression, but the company is steadily growing its base.
Apps that already have their data compressed include the likes of Facebook, Google Maps, Instagram and YouTube. You even get a breakdown of how much you're saving. It's not only a great way to save data, but also a great way to see which app is using the most.
Whatever your data limits are, you're going to want to keep track of them. Data Usage will give details on every aspect of your data usage, including whether you're likely to exceed your limits. It will even tell you where you last accessed mobile data based on a GPS location, just in case you want to find out where you blew that 50MB.
Ever wanted to do a travel blog, but didn't know where to start, or you knew you wouldn't have regular access to a computer? Off Exploring is a travel blog website with a solid community of travellers, and, better still, a mobile app that doesn't require an internet connection to be useful.
Like any good blog, Off Exploring allows you to make entries with photos, video and text, but with the added benefit of including a location for your posts, importing photos directly from your phone and the ability to queue all of this up in offline mode, ready for a Wi-Fi connection later.
It's a great way to keep friends and family up to speed on how much fun you're having. Don't fret; you can still upload anything from your fancy dSLR via a computer at any time, too.
iOS: £1.99; Android: Free
Flicking through the pages of your diary and reminiscing about your old holidays can't be beat — except, of course, if your diary had GPS-enabled maps and geotagged photos, and you could share it to your favourite social network to rub it in your friends' faces.
This app does exactly that. Open the app, start tracking your day and set off. Photos can be taken within the app or imported from your library. You can even go back and add photos, notes and places you visited at a later time. The end result is a map of your movements dotted with photos and notes — brilliant.
Similar to Trip Journal, CheckMyTour will track your trip, geo-tag photos and let you make notes as you go. It will also allow you to check in using Foursquare, and use an 'Around Me' function to find local businesses, as well as posting all of this to Facebook, Twitter or the CheckMyTour community. It also stores some interesting statistics about the day, such as the local weather and the distance you travelled.
The more diligent and sensible travellers among us will budget their trip to ensure that they don't break the bank, but even if you're motivated enough to keep a budget, let's face it; it's boring and it wastes precious fun time.
Piggie allows you to favourite expenses like transport or accommodation, so that adding a cab fare or that third round of cocktails is as easy as a few taps of the screen. If your trip takes you across borders, then Piggie will let you switch currencies to keep your countries separate. There are graphs to let you see what categories of expenses are costing you the most — assuming you want to see what percentage of your budget is alcohol.
XE Currency Converter
iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry
Let's face it: the exchange rate that our banks give us overseas is never anything like the market rate that apps like XE provide. Still, if you want a good idea of what your dollar is worth, then XE is a great bet. Simply set up the currencies you wish to convert in your favourites, update the rates once and they will always be available — even without internet. Of course, you will want to periodically update with a Wi-Fi connection if you're not on roaming data, just to keep it accurate.
We all love a movie or a TV show to ease the pain of those long journeys. The only downside is converting the files to a format that your phone can handle. In the case of the iPhone, this is particularly irritating, as it's so extremely limited in what it can play. Transcoding video is one of the slowest processes known to personal computing, even for high-end computers. So why bother?
Azul is a video-player app that simply cuts out the video conversion by playing file types that are otherwise unwatchable on devices like the iPhone. You can load videos through iTunes, from the cloud with Dropbox, from email or from other online sources. Within a few minutes, your phone can be populated with a selection of movies and TV episodes.
You're likely to encounter one of a multitude of ailments when you're on the road. These could be as common as the appropriately named Delhi belly, or as life threatening as malaria. Travel Health breaks down symptoms into categories, such as Fever, Gut Problems, Altitude Sickness and Emergencies, but it also provides general first-aid tips and a drug-reference database.
Information provided includes a description of symptoms that you might be having, what could be causing them and some of the treatments available. A visit to the doctor is always recommended, but Travel Health can give you an idea of the cause and severity of the symptoms you're experiencing.
World Drugs Converter
Once you know what's wrong with you and what's needed to fix it, there's another challenge. In many places, drugs can be found in general stores, where there are no medically trained staff, or the staff may not speak your language.
The World Drugs Converter allows you to search by product name, molecule or therapeutic indication (symptom). It's a very simple app. It not only provides an extensive offline database of pharmaceutical drugs, but, more importantly, it helps you to find a local product that offers what you need. This allows you to either ask for the right product or check that the one you've bought contains the right ingredients to cure your health issue — it even supplies the name in the local language. An invaluable tool.
Now, suggesting to anyone that they use photography apps to replace a full-blown camera is foolish, but Photosynth offers something else.
Photosynth is the product of some clever work by Microsoft, allowing users of the mobile app to take seamless, 360-degree panoramas anywhere you can whip your phone out. The camera automatically snaps photo after photo as you turn your phone, slowly building a complete panorama; it's great for capturing scenes that no regular photo or video can properly see.
Not only is Worldictionary able to translate from 21 languages to 59 languages (at the time of writing — though there are ongoing updates), it does so by sight.
The translation engine is still based on either Google or Bing translations, but Worldictionary can do its translations by simply pointing your phone camera at the word in question. This can be hugely advantageous when, say, you're trying to read Chinese or other character-based languages — and it also saves you the hassle of typing in the word and using the right accents.
You can either translate through the lens or from a photo, which can be taken by simply touching the screen. The app requires an internet connection, so taking a photo means that you can translate it later when you're online.
Once the word has been detected, you can read a detailed description of its meaning, look it up on Wikipedia or do a YouTube search on it, just in case you need extra information on its context.
This story originally appeared as Best iPhone travel apps on ZDNet Australia.
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