Summer is prime travel time and a few good mobile apps can make any journey more enjoyable. Frequent traveler and CIO.com blogger James A. Martin suggests three iOS and Android apps he never leaves home without.
Magellan’s GPS mapping app for iOS isn’t perfect. But RoadMate USA has, so far, been the most reliable iOS app I’ve used for voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. I also prefer the full-featured RoadMate USA to the free Google Maps navigation on Android devices.
When I launch RoadMate USA in a new location, after having been on an airplane for example, it takes only a few seconds to find a GPS signal. The interface is relatively uncluttered—though I would appreciate it if the app offered an easily accessed volume adjustment button. (Using the volume key on your iPhone doesn’t affect the app’s voice guidance unless you adjust the volume as the voice is actually speaking.) And it’s super fast to look up destination addresses using integrated Google, Yelp or other search services.
Most of the time, Magellan RoadMate USA provides sensible, clear directions. It offers free traffic updates and red-light camera alerts—features for which some other GPS mapping apps charge extra. When you miss a turn or decide to go in a different direction, the voice guidance doesn’t sigh and deliver an exasperated-sounding, “Recalculating!,” like the dedicated Garmin GPS units I’ve used. (OK, so the Garmin voice doesn’t sigh, but it does sound ever so judge-y.)
I mentioned that RoadMate USA has an annoying tendency to have little crises of confidence. For instance, the app will tell you to turn right in one mile, then, about half a mile later, it will tell you to make a U-turn or left turn now. I never quite know when these emotional breakdowns will occur. But I know that if I just stick to the original course, the app will eventually get re-oriented and help me stay on course. Still, memo to Magellan: Please fix this. It’s truly irritating and, for the uninitiated, potentially dangerous.
People from the South (where I’m from) often say “To get to heaven, you have to go through Atlanta.” And to get through Atlanta’s airport is anything but heavenly. But whenever I’m in Atlanta, or any other big airport, I fire up GateGuru, and I’m instantly calmer.
GateGuru is a GPS-enabled guide to 120 airports in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia. It breaks down an airport’s maze of terminals so you can find what truly matters most, which in my case is the closest Chick-fil-A counter. You can browse terminal by terminal or do a search, view a list of restaurants, shops or services and even glance at your TripIt or Kayak itineraries. I’ll use that heaven reference one last time and say that GateGuru is truly a Godsend.
Frequent travelers and airplane geeks (like me) will appreciate FlightTrack Pro. It tells you everything you need to know about your flight, including info about delays, gates and a plane’s current location on a map.
FlightTrack Pro automatically and instantly syncs your TripIt airline itineraries. When you receive an email confirmation from an airline or travel agency, you just forward the email to your TripIt account. Right away, those flights are added to your list in FlightTrack Pro, where you can track them easily.
The free FlightTrack app for iOS and Android doesn’t support TripIt integration, push flight alerts or airport delay predictions, and I think these features are worth the ten bucks.
That’s it. Download these three apps and you’re good to go. Just remember to turn off your smartphone during takeoff and landing, as we all know how seriously dangerous it is to leave them on.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.