Top 5 Free Holiday Apps

Pocket-Everywhere

We’ve noticed a couple of things when searching for recommendations for good apps to use on holiday. First that many are aimed at helping you plan or organise a trip, but are of limited use when you get there, and second that many need a steady internet connection, which unless you want to pay expensive roaming fees are again of little use when you get there. So here’s a short list of five free and genuinely useful apps that we think should be on every smartphone user’s “must-have list” for a trip abroad.

Pocket
Pocket is a great app to have in any situation where you’ll spend a significant amount of time without an internet connection. Able to save web pages (including images and even videos) locally on your phone with just a couple of taps on the screen, it’s easy to amass a list of “must read” articles to peruse at a more convenient time. So you could, for example, grab the day’s news from the wireless area at reception and enjoy it outside at the pool bar while catching a few rays.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire

Skype-Android

Skype
You’d be hard pressed not to have at least heard of Skype. The popular VOIP (Voice Over IP) service has found a new lease of life on mobile platforms, and it’s a great way to make video or voice calls without touching the data or minutes on your phone package. This is particularly useful abroad when facing roaming charges, provided you can find a quiet place in a wireless area to make your call. You can also send messages via Skype, though alternatives such as WhatsApp offer a slightly more straightforward way to send free text, photo and video messages to loved ones while away.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Oanda-app

Oanda Currency Convertor
There is no shortage of currency conversion software for mobiles, but we’re a fan of Oanda’s for its small footprint (just 220k), fast and straightforward operation, daily exchange rate updates and the fact that it works offline. You can also choose between the standard interbank rate or use the percentage add-on option to set typical rates for credit card companies and ATMs at foreign banks. So there’s no excuse for miscalculating the next booze cruise – just don’t forget to add on the drinks.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry

Tourist-Translate

Tourist Language Learn & Speak
Software such as Google Translate and iTranslate are undoubtedly marvels of modern translation, but unless you’re paying hefty data roaming fees are of little use when you actually need them – on holiday in an area with no wireless signal. Offline phrasebooks are a better bet when you’re actually abroad, and Tourist Language Learn & Speak for Android is up there with the best. With support for 24 languages in 58 countries, all of the key phrases you’ll need are sorted into handy categories and can be are spoken back to you to help with pronunciation.
Available for: Android

Tripit Travel Organizer
After a passport, perhaps the most important thing to take with you on holiday is a printout of your travel itinerary, booking confirmations, airline reservations and other documentation you might need while away. Unless you’re particularly organised it can be easier to forget one or more of these so a service like Tripit could be a lifesaver. Simply upload any relevant documentation and Tripit organises it and makes it available offline for you to check at a moment’s notice. You can even get weather forecasts, maps and directions and share your details with family or friends so they know where you are if they need to contact you.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7

UK Bus Checker iPhone app review

Much as I love the UK, getting from A to B can be a panic inducing frenzy, so anything to alleviate the pain of commuting is welcomed with open arms. Building on the success of London Bus Checker, comes UK Bus Checker, a clever little app that brings bus travel kicking and screaming into the modern age. I’m fond of saying that we already live in the future – we just don’t recognise it and it’s the little things like Bus Checker that can subtly disrupt our daily routine in mind-blowing ways.

UK-Bus-Checker

At its core the app simply tells you where you are, where you nearest bus stop is and when it’s coming. Well I say “simply” but as someone who has cumulatively spent hours waiting for buses this has the potential to change the way I live my life. Even simple things like knowing exactly when my night bus is coming means I can time my exit from any seedy late night establishment I might have found myself in (more often than not the institute of education).

Bus-Checker You can set alerts for where to get off, so your phone will buzz when you get to a stop (or just before if you so desire). You can also set favourites for stops that for a regular part of your daily grind.

Click on show route and there’s a super cute bus icon that you can drag along various stages of your journey. There are lots of little touches like that and it’s in the attention to detail where apps like this really shine. Whilst the functionality is solid, playful touches make finding information about buses – which whilst important is also mundane – fun and enjoyable. My favourite of these is the bus stop graphic that mimics staring at your local bus stop’s departure board.

UK Bus Checker is out now for £2.49 from iTunes.

Vaude PETros and Rails: Taking your gadgets safely from A to B

We love a good bag here at LG Towers. It’s all well and good being able to curl on an sofa and get your geek on (there’s a chiptune Missy Elliot remix of that floating around I’d wager) but it’s as much fun to take your geek to the streets with all manner of swaddling garb to keep your precious gadgetry safe. Enter Vaude and their serious German engineering credentials.

Vaude-PETros

The Vaude Petros is heavy duty laptop backpack for the serious road warrior with a conscience (the Petros is partly constructed from recycled PET bottles). The 20 litre PETros bag is large enough to fit your 15″ laptop or gym clothes … or both (my how times have changed). There’s a special little padded compartment at the back that should keep laptops safe from minor dents and bumps. There’s also a rain cover tucked away in a hidden compartment at the base of the backpack to stop you from freaking out in a downpour. And my favourite feature? A little dedicated glasses pocket to keep your specs safe.

Vaude-Rails

But what if you want to travel further afield? Well the Vaude Rails 60 has you covered. Not since I saw a suitcase with a scooter built in have I been so impressed with luggage. It’s up there with Rincewind’s travel companion (if you enjoyed that Discworld reference as much as I did then we should hang out). Like the PETros, the Rails 60 has some serious green credentials and is made of at least 90% organic cotton or recycled materials, and colored using the eco-friendly VAUDE ecolour dyeing process. Even better it has secret straps that transform it from a trolley into a backpack. It’s padded on it’s undercarriage so it’s reasonable comfortable to lug around. And the front compartment zips off completely to become a light day bag/hand luggage that you can use around the airport or when strolling through the city.

PETros £85
Rails 60 £190
More info at www.vaude.com

Ebooker’s Hotel iPad app: No more chancing your chocolates

Long gone are the days when travellers and backpackers, unsure of where the next hotel might be, precariously ‘chanced their chocolates’ in entering a dark, dingy and eerie-looking inn down some alleyway in Outer Mongolia to get their head down for the night.  Thanks to ebooker’s new Hotel iPad app, for travellers on the go, locating a hotel couldn’t be faster or easier.

ebookers-iPad

Exploiting the iPad’s GPS capabilities, the iPad Hotel app locates nearby hotels, or alternatively, travellers can find a nearby hotel by punching in the city, town, postcard or even a landmark close to where they want to spend the night.

Asides from finding users a nearby hotel, ebookers’ new app provides thousands of hotel reviews that are organised by their distance and region, star rating, price and review score. These comprehensive reviews, which include descriptions of the rooms and amenities, provide information on special offers, and include some ‘guest’ reviews, are backed up by photographs, giving travellers a visual opinion of the hotel they are anticipating spending the night in, as well as a written one.

With the phenomenal popularity of online travel agents such as ebookers, which is delivering ‘4.5-star apps’, designed to help travellers to “book easier an travel happier”, it’s a surprise that high street travel agents are still in existence.

Ebooker’s Hotels app for iPad certainly sounds like a fast, reliable, convenient and streamlined method of planning your hotel destinations whilst on your travels. Personally I think that using such a modern, safe and ‘predictable’ way to find places to crash out for the night, takes some of the fun away of the whole travelling/backpacking experience.

The ebookers Hotels app for the iPad can be downloaded for free at the Apple iPad App Store and is available in six different languages – Happy travelling!

Worlddictionary iPhone app review

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein. And back in the early 20th century, he was right. As technology moves on, however, there’s an iPhone app that’s perfect for the holiday season and ready to tear down the language barrier: Worlddictionary.

World-Dictionary
Image courtesy of Flickr user torisan3500

Using the iPhone’s camera and optical character recognition technology, Worlddictionary recognises words in 20 different languages and converts them into English.

To read a sentence, simply point the camera’s viewfinder at the word and move along the sentence – the app translates on-the-fly. You can also capture pictures, and then select various words in the picture to translate.

It all works in real-time, although language data is stored on a server – so high-cost data roaming bills might prove to be an issue.

The developers have clearly thought about this, however, and have added functionality to translate existing pictures from your iPhone’s library. Not sure of word? Snap it, save it, take it to a WiFi connection and translate it there.

The app automatically records your searches, so you’ll be able to look-back over the various translations you’ve made. This works great for learning a new language – sort of like interactive, useful flashcards.

After you’ve captured a word, you can search via Google, Wikipedia or YouTube for a better understanding of its meaning – perfect for odd turns-of-phrase used in the wider world.

In practice, the results are varied. For translating a menu or short phrases, the app could be a lifesaver – especially if you’re allergic to certain foods.

For long works of prose, you’ll probably lose a lot of the meaning as a maximum of two words at a time are processed. And for pictogram languages (such as Chinese), the translation of each individual character means that words longer than syllable are gibberish – a composition of their literal parts.

It fares much better on Latin-based languages, where syntax is more similar to English. We tested it on a GCSE French exam and – without any prior knowledge – we did pretty well.

For £2.99, it’s certainly worth the purchase to reduce the risk of eating dog in foreign lands.

Available from the app store

Viator app makes finding something to do around the world a breeze.

It used to be great fun being a tourist. I have many fond memories of being in some dark and distant city pouring over a map in a local bar trying to work out where I was and where on earth I was going to find the attraction I was looking for. The simple drama of wandering down a narrow twisty cobbled street toward somewhere equally cobbled and twisty, hoping that maybe, I just might be on the route I needed, has always been highly intoxicating for me.

Viator-Travel-App

Now sadly, all that fun is a thing of the past. Viator, one of the foremost bookers of tours and activities around the world, has launched customised iPhone and iPod  free apps that will offer inspiration and tools to help travellers find, explore and book nearly 9,000 activities in over 175 different countries.

The apps will offer last-minute availability, new paperless e-vouchers and exclusive deals in five different currencies, so you’ll never be short of finding something wherever you may be.

The apps will cater for all tastes, so whether you fancy an afterhour’s tour of The Vatican or getting married in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, you’ll be able to find it now.

The iPhone app is for people on the go, finding where you are through the built in GPS and offering up local tours and activities together with user experience feedback and any potential discounts on offer.

The iPad app on the other hand is a more comprehensive application that will be your never-out-of-date guide book of the best experiences in the world’s top100 cities accessed via a rotating 3D globe and checking availability in real time.

Barrie Seidenberg, president and CEO of Viator Inc remarks:

“Today’s travellers are more self-directed and less reliant on concierges and out-of-date guidebooks than in the past and our apps cater to their needs with the added flexibility to find and book tours and activities on the go anytime, anywhere.”

www.viator.com/apps

Review: Bright Light Ranger and Eton Scorpion

If you go camping, boating or fishing, or indeed need a light at the bottom of the garden, the low-energy ultra-bright LED Bright Light Ranger lamp has been designed for you.

Bright-Light-Ranger

Now don’t think this a torch that you can slip in your pocket – it’s a bigger piece of kit – around the size of a portable DVD drive – and quite weighty. However, it does send out a decent wide angle beam that can cover a 40-square metre area and offers 12 hours from a single charge.

The lamp boasts 12 Power LEDs, which are brighter than ordinary LEDs, and should the light die at a vital moment you have several choices for charging – you can plug it into the mains to get juice into the rechargeable battery, use a 12V car socket, or in a real emergency, use the wind-up handle, which fits neatly into the side of the body.

Nowadays, we come to expect gear designed for use outdoors to have a rubberised body, which the Bright Light Ranger doesn’t have. It does feel pretty sturdy, but I’m not sure how much hard use it would survive – if you’re outside camping, or in a stables or boating environment, things tend to get a bit of a bashing.

It’s not cheap at £89.99, but it does do a better job than most of the camping lanterns I’ve tried over recent years, and as an emergency power source – you might even keep it to use if there’s a power cut at home, it’s probably worth a punt. Yours from www.nevadaradio.co.uk

Also aimed at the outside user is the Eton Scorpion, a solar powered radio, mobile phone charger, LED flashlight and bottle opener! That might give you a clue to the type of user it is aimed at – it would be great for campers and festival goers.

Eton-Scorpion

The good-looking gadget fits in the hand, although it’s quite chunky and comes in either black and bright orange or black and vibrant green. Its body is rubberised to withstand knocks and shocks and it has a carabineer clip so that you can hook it to a tent, line or wire.

The radio picked up a decent signal in our village, which from I know doesn’t benefit from the best reception, and the torch is a really useful addition. The charger managed to power up an iPhone, and if you run out of juice you can use the solar panel, DC adaptor or the crank dynamo in an emergency. The only not-so-rugged part of the unit is the rubber cover for the power and headphone ports, which I suspect would easily get pulled off with continued use.

It’s a nifty, good looking and fun piece of kit for the traveller – and you can always do with an extra bottle opener! Priced at £49.99 from www.etoncorp.co.uk

Samsonite’s new app clocks up the miles

Here’s a thought. Instead of just idly staring out of a window on your next trip thinking about all the things you could be doing instead of just sitting staring out of the window, you could be calculating what goodies you’ve earned as each mile passes by.

Samsonite-Travel-app

Samsonite knows a thing or two about luggage. After all, it’s been producing high quality suitcases since 1910 following the gold rush, when many Americans travelling west to make their fortunes needed some pretty hard wearing cases in the rough conditions they were facing. It was the first company to put wheels on cases and the first to develop polypropylene hard cases.

Now it’s created another first. A free iPhone and Android app for its European, Russian, Turkish and South African customers which monitors the number of miles you travel and converts them into gifts when you purchase a Samsonite product online. As well as keeping a track of where you’ve been and what you used to get there via land air and sea icons, the app also provides handy baggage restriction details for most airlines and syncs with social media letting you share travel experiences and photos on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

App users automatically become members of Samsonite’s Travel Club and every time you share your trips online, you win even more Samsonite Miles to swap for travel gadget or two.

Lisa Jermy, Marketing Manager at Samsonite UK, commented: “The first-ever Samsonite Travel Miles app is not only practical, but rewards people the more miles they cover; another great excuse to visit far-flung destinations.”

As an example reaching 100,000 travel miles (which also  includes air travel) would qualify you for a handy excursion bag.

Samsonite produces some of the most durable high quality cases on the market and if you’re a frequent traveller, this new app might find you a goody or two.