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A Traveler’s Life: Apps 2.0

There are so many smartphone applications that can help you this  season. How can you stay up will all the options? Well, on September 14, 2010, a ‘city by the bay’ decided to help smartphone users with that question. This city, aka San Francisco, became the first city to host an official app conference, suitably calling it “App Nation.” More than 800 app enthusiasts came out for the three-day event. Conference Chairman Drew Ianni commented on the spontaneity of App Nation, “It’s this ecosystem and economy that’s sort of sprung out of nowhere” (2). Chetan Sharma, a consultant who did research on smartphone apps stated, “The number of apps downloaded will jump from 7 billion in 2009 to nearly 50 billion in 2012” (2).
Of the apps reviewed by our staff, here are the top picks:

Holiday Cruising
Gas Book—If you choose to travel by car, because flights are not available, too expensive or you just enjoy the wind in your hair, then saving every penny on gas is paramount. PC World featured this app in its Top 15 Transportation Apps for Planes, Trains and Cars. We should want to spend our hard earned money on special gifts not gas. This app can help users find stations that allow them to fill up and conserve precious pennies. Users can save local gas stations into a favorite’s folder for easy access. They can sort other unknown locations by price or distance and keep a fuel log to see cost per day. The only downside to this app is that it only operates within the U.S.
Holiday Cruising
Park-n-Find—Have you ever walked around the parking lot wishing your car would just tell you where you left it? Since we all know that cars can’t talk, this app can speak for them. PC World also listed this app in its Top 15 Transportation Apps for Planes, Trains and Cars. When engaging this app, a pin drops on an aerial map where you leave your car. If you travel through life with a more meticulous hand, the app also allows users to take a picture of the car and leave voice and/or text notes. Did I mention that it also has an integrated timer for those pesky parking meters? Well, it does.
All in One
Where—This app appeals to users who like the reviews of Yelp, the minute-quick notifications of Weather Bug, and the traffic conditions of Google maps. CIO magazine put this app in its Top 20 Blackberry and iPhone Apps for Summer Travel, but it is obviously applicable for all seasons. The possibilities for holiday fun are almost endless with this app. For example, you could find the best place for The Nutcracker Ballet, mark a restaurant close to the theatre, read some reviews of both the theatre and the eatery, check the local weather to know what to wear and figure out how far everything is from your current location.
Gifts Guider
BillMinder—To really get geared for this gifting season, you need to have all of your finances in order. At least that is the advice that Jordan Goldman, founder and CEO of Unigo.com, gives to college students. In this economy, college students aren’t the only ones wondering how to budget for gift giving. In this app you can input your bills, when they’re due and whether or not they have been paid. It will also notify you when another bill is soon due. All these things can determine how far you will cast the net of merriment.
Gifts Guider
Red Laser—Jordan Goldman also explains that, “[You should] never overpay for a product again, because this will tell you on the spot [where] you can find this [item] cheaper” (3). The app’s scanner reads all current product barcodes. “[Instead of] tackling someone on Black Friday, try Red Laser…it’ll recognize the product and search for prices on Google and TheFind,” says Kim Thai for Fortune magazine (4). If you aren’t into buying online, Red Laser also gives local recommendations.
Keep in Touch
Skype—This app helps you send your love to those you can’t be with this holiday season. “Nearly 5 million consumers have downloaded a Skype Web telephony application,” claims Russ Shaw, general manager for Skype mobile (1). Skype to Skype chatting is free. A subscription for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada costs $3 per month and a Skype number costs $12 for three months. Basically, you pay around $60 per year for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada to/from your Skype number. For other countries, your monthly cost will depend on how many countries you plan to call, and whether you call mobile phones or just landlines. It is an inexpensive way to reach out to friends and family all over the world. Best of all, your mobile minutes are not used since the call is carried over a data circuit (i.e. 3G network).
Kids
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt—Sometimes listening to the radio doesn’t cut it for the kids in the back. So, for those moments, play the Road Trip Scavenger Hunt. Your kids can get points for spotting items or words outside their own window. You just touch their name on your phone when they see the subject first and the app will give them a point. Just set the max amount of points to win and let their competitive natures do the rest!
Adults
Words with Friends—Wired.com readers voted it #1 in its Favorite iPhone Apps of 2009. This app combines scrabble with online chat. It allows you to play up to twenty games simultaneously against your friends or others all over the world. You can choose to invite from your contact list, have the app choose a random player already in the network or do ‘pass and play’ which is between you and the person sitting next to you. Whichever way you choose, you can guarantee that your brain will become addicted. Just ask John Mayer, who has been quoted saying, “Words with Friends app is the new Twitter.”

One Comment

  1. Elias says:

    Great list! I’ve used a lot of these apps myself, like the road Trip Scavenger Hunt app, my kids absolutely love that one and ask for it even for a short trip to the grocery store, just to see how many points they get. Another great app to keep them occupied on longer road trips is one I picked up through my job at Dish. They have a remote access app that pulls live and recorded TV off the receiver box at home and will let you watch it on your phone or tablet. You can use it anywhere there’s a 3G or wifi connection, and I’ve found it to be absolutely priceless on long trips in the car or waiting at the gate in the airport.

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