Everyone on the Internet has come up with their list of the most important iPhone applications and travel bloggers are no exception. We have come to completely depend on our iTouch for everything from a quick check of the email when we can find free WiFi to portable storage and use of all of our guidebooks which we have in PDF form. As much as I may dislike the way in which Apple controls its products, these are good projects whose power and portability add dramatically to our ability to log-in and log-off that much quicker.
The applications below are ordered from most important to least, obviously skipping over many (Facebook, Gmail, Tweetdeck,Kayak, etc) that we have and use but really aren’t quite that special. The one thing all of these below applications have in common is that they all work offline.
PDF Reader: With this application we are able to store our guidebooks on our iTouch and call on their data with a few swipes of the thumb. In South America one big book carried us all the way through the continent but no other region we’ve visited has had that sort of geographical travel guide available to us. Without this application we would literally be carting around 2-4 guidebooks at any given time and they would probably be all outdated.
Encyclopedia: This is probably the best tool of all. The entire Wikipedia database at my fingertips, off line, no connection needed. The nearly 2.5GB file contains only English and no pictures but otherwise it is no different than using Wikipedia itself. We can figure out where we’ve seen that actor before, read the mythologies of the Nazca lines while flying overhead, and study up on quantum mechanics from the train. More information than we know what to do with for only $9, which makes it the most expensive application we have by about $8 but it is worth every cent and even includes a donation to the Wikipedia foundation.
Factbook: No, not Facebook. This is the entire CIA World Factbook available off line and at my fingertips. With this we have an instant idea what the transportation issues are going to be, any transnational border disputes we need to be aware of, and what waterborne diseases we need to be careful about.
Currency: We used a free currency application but finally switched to a paid version when we realized a number of places we’re going to in the next 4 months weren’t listed. These applications download spot exchange rates when you connect and are available off line for you to do conversions when necessary. If we were only traveling to a handful of places we might not need this but sometimes we switch currencies multiple times a week and keeping track of all those rates can be extremely frustrating.
SkyGazer: A map of the stars, which matches easily to what you can actually see above you. It also comes complete with all mythologies and you can fast forward and rewind to any second in the future or history. As we fell asleep in the Kalahari listening to lions we were gazing out our tent at the constellation Leo and while watching the sand in the Sahara I found myself admiring Scorpio. For $3 this is the sort of thing that ‘makes me happy’ but there is a free version called ‘Planets’ that works quite nicely as well.
Tripwolf: This is one of many online apps that provide us with an additional bit of destination information. Many of the most popular destinations have additional ‘paid’ guides but all the free ones contain information that can help us plan what we want to do. We have to online to download a guide but it is fully functional offline. Much of Tripwolf’s information is supplied by Footprint Books.
News Applications: There are a million, most don’t work offline. We’ve found the AP application to be the fastest to load when online and easiest to use offline of all the major news apps. We also like the NY Times application even if it is a bit slower and slightly less customizable.
World Nomads Language Guides: We were in a Kenyan market and were trying to negotiate with local women who spoke only Swahili. With the exchange rate around 80 shillings to the dollar, 10 fingers just weren’t enough for the numbers we needed to express. I suppose I could have opened up the calculator and typed in the number but the Maasai were far more impressed when I stated my price, verbally, at 1,600 shillings, in Swahili.