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Travelling light

It started off as an experiment a little over a month ago. Weary from lugging around a 3kg hunk of plastic (a.k.a my laptop) and associated power supply, I decided to give the computer a skip on my next journey and rely exclusively on my iPhone and its phenomenal collection of apps. And no, I don’t mean just as a distraction on a long car ride or a plane trip. I was prepared to leave the laptop… at home.

But before I would truly begin to enjoy my vacation and put the iPhone through some serious travel use, I’d need apps — lots of ‘em! Trouble is, with over 35,000 applications in the Apple App Store, it’s easy to get lost, and not the kind of lost that GPS and maps can fix! And so I waded through tons of travel apps, both paid and free, to cull out this list of must-have apps for your iPhone on your next exotic vacation.

Wi-Fi utilities

Try using the iPhone’s data roaming when you’re travelling abroad and it can punch a serious hole through your wallet. Fortunately, with the world going wire-free, you can still rely on Wi-Fi for all of your Internet needs. Applications like WifiTrak ($0.99) scan all available Wi-Fi networks in your vicinity and shows you a complete list sorted on usability — whether it is open, how strong a signal is, etc. It even automates the process so you have to enter your login information only once, and it logs you in at the press of a button every subsequent time.

Cheap calling

Now that you’ve gotten yourself onto the Internet, a quick call home wouldn’t be such a bad idea, would it? Or even a long one maybe? Get yourself Truphone, a Voice-over-IP application which routes your phone calls over the Internet, saving you a ton in roaming charges. No calling cards, no access numbers and no funny business, just dial from your address book. Or, if you’re used to using Skype to call your relatives abroad, use your Skype currency to call from any Wi-Fi hotspot worldwide. In both cases, the audio may not be the best, but hey, you get what you pay for.

Local languages

Struggling with phrase books and dictionaries on that dream vacation? Try Babelingo ($5.99) — this clever little app holds over 300 useful phrases in 11 languages (including German, Japanese and Chinese). What’s more, the phrases are printed in large fonts in the local language on your iPhone screen, so you can show them to the predictably confused taxi driver! Or you go the Lonely Planet ($9.99) way, with its 10 most popular phrasebooks available in downloadable audio format. For something free, try the freely downloadable WorldNomads language phrasebooks.

City guides

Save the trees! Lonely Planet and the Frommer’s renowned City Guides are now available for the iPhone, albeit for a price. Quintessentially, a renowned concierge service, has a free app for download, which provides users with access to a wealth of insider and specialist travel content (usually reserved for members, but available on the iPhone for free). From California to Hong Kong, Quintessentially runs 44 offices around the world, which contribute much of the must-have travel information and local secrets to this application.

Conversion

You never know when you may need to know how many litres make a quart (0.94) or how many nautical miles make a kilometre (0.53), but when you do, apps like Units (free) and Convert Any ($0.99) can convert all types of measurement and most importantly, currency. Some even have a small ruler you can break out. Why? Because you can!

Flight status

Look no further than the unimaginatively named application “Flight Status” ($4.99), that lets you check the status of thousands of flights from 1,143 airline carriers around the world from 4,246 airports. Pick by flight number, route or by airport, and it will render the arrival/departure status of each flight, as well as the arrival gates and baggage carousels in certain airports.

Local eating

Urban Spoon (free) recommends restaurants in more than 50 cities using the iPhone’s location-aware capability and offers reviews from newspapers, blogs and fellow users, along with the address for directions.

Handy tools

For that extra peace of mind when you’re walking back to your hotel at night, pick up the Panic Alarm ($0.99) application. Activate the application when travelling alone and in the event of trouble, the prominent Panic button can be pressed to activate an ear-shattering alarm that will attract a fair amount of attention. The application can also be set-up to call an emergency number for help at such times. Or the free Flashlight application, which can act like a bright night light whether you’re out camping in the jungle or looking around for the light switch in the middle of the night. It even has some psychedelic strobe lighting effects for your own personal party “mood lighting”.

And that’s the great thing about these applications. No more guidebooks, maps, extensive travel planning — it’s all available, on the go, literally at your fingertips. And there’re new apps on the way everyday. Got one you’d like to share? Drop me an e-mail/tweet and I’ll feature the best on Twitter.

Blast from the past

The 35mm negative — a relic of years gone by, encompasses some of our most beautiful memories. Give it another chance, with the ImageLab FS-5T12 12 MegaPixel slide and negative scanner. It can scan upto 2575 x 1932 pixels and has a built-in LCD to preview images before it saves to an SD card. Ready for use with or without a computer, and operates in battery or AC adapter mode.
URL: http://www. imagelab.us/fs5t12scanner.html
Price: To be announced

Heads I win

Shouldn’t connecting your Bluetooth headset with your PC be a whole lot simpler? Callpod’s newly released Drone USB Bluetooth adapter makes your Bluetooth headset look just like a regular headphone / mic combo to a PC or a Mac. Just connect the Drone into the USB port of your computer, and it will immediately connect with your Bluetooth headset or headphone to provide streaming music and voice over a 100 metre (328ft) range.
URL: http://www.callpod.com/products/drone
URL: $49.95

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