App Reviews

Reviews of applications for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or Android devices.

  • Waze

    Waze is the perfect app when traveling by car.  It makes navigating city streets or roads in wide open spaces quicker and easier.  Best of all, it saves time and keeps your stress level down.

    Waze is a crowd-sourced mapping and traffic app the runs on iPhone or Android.  The crowd-sourcing component makes it’s data very reliable and current.  Traveling home from work and an accident occurs, no problem.  Waze captures speed, road conditions and traffic data from other Waze users who are currently using the app.  Waze works in many countries around the globe, so you can use it at home or when you travel.

    We’ve been using Waze at home and while traveling since the first of the year. Waze started in 2008 and is now owned by Google.

    It’s maps are extremely accurate and current.  Temporary road closures almost always appear in Waze.   So do things like restricted turn lanes at certain times of day.  It really is amazing how accurate it is.  It’s very good at automatically rerouting you around traffic problems and estimating your time of arrival.  Almost every time, Waze is accurate to within 2-3 minutes.  You can even share your route with friends via email or text message, so they can track your progress at getting to your destination.

    Another key aspect of traveling by car is finding the best price on fuel.  Waze has you covered.  Just as real-time traffic information is crowd-sourced, so are fuel prices.  It’s an easy way to find the cheapest fuel prices on any route you’re traveling.

    Of course, there’s another component to Waze.  The ability for users to earn points.  The more points you earn, you get upgraded badges to show your stature in the Waze user community.  You can easily see how you rank among other drivers in your state, county or country.  You can earn bonus points for reporting traffic information, accidents, road hazards, gas prices and more.

    We love Waze.  The best part is, it’s free!  You can try it now, by downloading it from the App Store on iTunes.

     

  • Clean Writer

    Clean Writer has two apps, one for the iPad and the other for the Mac.  Both work similarly, with the Mac version having a few more features.

    Clean Writer is a simple, stay-out-of-the-way, writing app.  We’ve used it for over a year and have been extremely pleased.  This isn’t Word or anything like it.  It’s a distraction free, simplistic, minimalist, easy to use application to use for writing.

    While we use both versions, we use the iPad version the most.  We use it primarily to create content for this blog.   Clean Writer stores your writing in small text files by default.  It also can store your files with a click on Dropbox.  It’s one of our favorite features while on the road, because we always have a backup of our content, should something happen to our iPad.  The small sidebar menu can be hidden, showing nothing but your content on the screen.  You have the ability to change color of both the background and content.  It’s very handy when you’re working in a dark room or on a dark plane.  It’s easy on the eyes and keeps prying eyes at bay.

    Clean Writer is available from the iTunes store for 99 cents for the iPad version and $2.99 for the Mac version.  It’s a small investment for such a simple, powerful app.

     

  • Tripit

    We were an early adopter of TripIt about 7 years ago. It’s been a love/hate relationship. It’s come along way over the years. Things really seemed to improve after they were acquired by Concur.

    TripIt is good for some things and not so great at others. When it works, it works beautifully. When it fails, it’s an epic fail.

    TripIt is great for collecting all of the various confirmations and assembling a comprehensive itinerary for your travel plans. It’s as simple as forwarding on your confirmations via email. TripIt collects those and constructs the trip itinerary.

    While TripIt supports most major travel providers, if you’re going with smaller, non-chain or lesser known companies, TripIt makes it difficult. They’ll simply send you an email indicating they couldn’t process your confirmation. Then, you have to enter all of the details manually. While it’s not that difficult to fill in all the fields, it is time consuming. They could easily simplify the process by capturing the data and then letting you apply the appropriate data to the correct fields. It would make adding these “unsupported” confirmations much easier.

    Since TripIt captures the information from the confirmation, it doesn’t keep a copy of your original confirmation. If you ever need to have the actual confirmation document, your hosed. You’ll have to keep that elsewhere. While it’s not often you need the original, we’ve had several instances over the years where it’s been necessary. That’s why we use Dropbox and SendtoDropbox for the actual confirmations themselves.

    Sharing or printing your entire itinerary with TripIt is fairly straight forward. If you want to leave a copy of your itinerary with friends, or give them access to view it online, TripIt works well. It would be nice to have more customization options as to what information is included, but many will find it adequate.

    TripIt is great for groups that travel together. You can make connections and share your travel information. For co-workers or travel buddies, this feature can be indispensible. Especially if your travel plans differ from theirs. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date with changes that others incur.

    TripIt Pro can also be used to track all of your loyalty programs. Simply input your various airline, hotel or car rental programs and you’ll have all of your information in one place.

    While TripIt is free for basic services, you can pay an annual fee of $49 and upgrade to TripIt Pro. You’ll get flight update notifications, baggage pick up information, as well as itinerary changes via email or pushed to your mobile device if you have their app. We’ve had varying luck. It’s very nice to know that as you pull up to the gate, where you’ll be going to pick up your checked baggage. The problem is sometimes the information is delayed. There have been times when we’ve already picked up our luggage, 30 minutes after landing and the notification finally comes through.

    TripIt is certainly helpful. We just home someday, they’ll fix a few of these overlooked items and have better consistency at push notifications.

  • Dropbox

    We love Dropbox for everyday use to store files, documents and more.  But, Dropbox is indispensable for using while traveling.  We have the Dropbox app on our iPhones ,iPads and laptop.

    Dropbox is an easy place to store all the things you need when you travel.   Here are the items we store in Dropbox when we travel:

    • Travel itineraries
    • Airline confirmations
    • Hotel confirmations
    • Copies of medication prescriptions
    • Emergency contact information
    • Copies of passport and drivers licenses (additionally encrypted, of course)
    • Copies of travel insurance documents
    • Copies of travel vouchers
    • Copies of train tickets (Eurail, etc).
    • Copies of travel visas

    By keeping all things related to your trip in Dropbox, it allows you to eliminate carrying paper.  It’s also one less thing you risk losing or having stolen.  The last thing you need is thieves knowing what your travel plans are. 

    While Dropbox stores your documents and information in the cloud, we’ve never had to worry about accessing an internet connection, no matter how remote of a place we’ve been.  But, of course, when you need one, there’s always the remote possibility you won’t have one.  That’s why it’s a good idea to put the items for your trip in a special folder to share on Dropbox.  You can share that folder with a friend or relative.  Then, if you don’t have access, you can at least have them fax or email it to you.  For each trip we take, we make a special folder in Dropbox, so it’s easy to find and share information.

    You can easily upload information to Dropbox from any computer or mobile device using the Dropbox app.  You can also use a third party app that’s also free, like SendtoDropbox.  SendtoDropbox allows you to email items directly to your Dropbox account.  It’s free and doesn’t have a size limit on attachments.  You can also give the SendtoDropbox email address to friends, in case they need to forward larger attachments to you while traveling.  It’s a good idea to also store that address in your own address book, in case you want to send items to it as well.

    Now you may be thinking, “Why not use something like TripIt, instead?”.  We use TripIt, too but the downfall is that it converts all of your itinerary information into it’s own format.  It leaves you without the original documents or confirmations.  While having the original is not usually a problem in the US, it can be as you travel internationally.

    Dropbox also comes in handy for other things while you travel.  We use it to to upload our travel journals each day and backup special photos we don’t want to lose. 

    Dropbox is extremely handy and the best thing is, it’s free.  You can store up to 2Gb of information without any fees.  You can also earn free additional storage space, just by signing up your friends.  Of course, you can buy more storage as well, although we’ve always found 2Gb to really be adequate.

  • Everdroid

    Everdroid is a cell phone data backup service that stores your cell phone data on the cloud.  Contacts.  Calendars.  More.  Import or recover your important cell phone data and contacts in minutes.

    After losing our iPhone on a recent trip to Africa, we were in a pickle.  We weren’t about to buy a new iPhone, with a new version coming out in less than six months.  Instead, we bought a piece of crap Nokia to get us through.  But until then, we needed to recover our cell phone data and get our 100+ contacts on to the new phone.  Doing it manually was a very painful option we wanted to avoid.  After a quick web search, we found Everdroid.  Everdroid can take a current back up of your phone and then restore it to almost any other phone, should your original phone become permanently unavailable (i.e. lost).  

    But of course, we didn’t know about Everdroid before we lost our phone.  No problem.

    You can upload your contact data from any other source to Everdroid.  Since we used an iPhone, we had all of our contact information on our iMac and Macbook Pro laptop that was on our phone.  We exported it to a CSV file and had it uploaded into Everdroid in less than 2 minutes.  Then, all you do is setup your new replacement phone (i.e. piece of crap Nokia) to sync with Everdroid and voila, all of the contacts were there in less than 5 minutes.  

    If you have an Android based phone, Everdroid has even more services that allow you to operate your phone remotely.  We’re Apple die-hards, so for us, just being able to export contacts from our Macs, to a different OS on a non-Apple phone made, Everdroid our hero.  Best thing.  It’s free.

    From now on, we’ll be routinely backing up our phone data to Everdroid.  That way, if we lose our next iPhone again, and have to buy a new phone that’s not an iPhone, we’ll be able to restore our contacts on the new phone in minutes.  Check Everdroid out by going here.

  • iPad/iPhone Travel Apps

    We’re big Apple fans.  We have all the Apple products.  Computers, laptops, iPods, Apple TV and the iPhone.  What about the iPad you say?  Well, we’re waiting for v2 later this fall.  We travel everywhere with our iPhone.  It’s kind of like a 7 in 1 tool.  Many people try to load as many apps as they can on their phone.  Personally, we’d rather put on apps that are useful.  Since we always have our iPhones or iPods, many apps come in handy while traveling or even while at home.  Here are some that we have on our phones that work great.

    Flight Track – Flight track is different than most flight tracking apps.  It sync’s with your iPhone’s calendar and TripIt, has live flight tracking, real time status for weather, delays, cancelations, as well as airport gate information for over 4000 airports worldwide.  You can also see the inbound flight information for the plane you’re about to board.  A very handy app to have if you spend time in airports.

    Star Map Pro – Since we travel to many unique, out-of-the-way destinations, it’s always interesting to look at the night time sky.  Once you get out of the cities and into the countryside, it’s amazing what you can see in the sky.  When you travel into the Southern Hemisphere, it really gives you a whole new perspective on things you can’t see from home.  With a catalog of over 2 million objects in the sky along with details for many of them, you’ll be amazed at what you find.  The best thing about this app is that it works “offline”, so you don’t need to use wireless minutes or data.  And, using the built in Location information and accelerometer built into the phone, you simply start the app, hold it up to the sky and it will automatically bring up the map for your location and show you the objects you’re looking at.  Very cool.

    Convert –  Is a very simple-to-use unit calculator.  Need to know how many litres make a gallon?  How many milliliters are in an ounce?  Very handy when traveling to countries that use the metric system.  The best thing is how easy this app is to use.

    Motion X GPS – This is a great app if you like to get out and do some walking or hiking.  It’s a full featured GPS that keeps track of where you are and where you’re headed.  All of the basic GPS functionality is built-in:  waypoints, destination coordinates, maps, elevation, altitude, speed, etc.  Especially handy if you’re in an unfamiliar area.  Since it uses location services on the iPhone, make sure your battery is well charged if you’re going on a longer hike.

    World FactBook – The CIA website has some of the best up-to-date information on every country throughout the world.  Now you can take a scaled-down version of that information with you on your iPhone.  A very handy reference guide to have with you at all times.

    iTimeZone – It’s hard enough to keep track of time where you are, let alone somewhere else.  This handy app works great at displaying time in just about any location throughout the world.

    Trip Advisor – This app eliminates the need for opening up a browser on your iPhone when you need quick information about a place or business.  Get a condensed version of all of the information on TripAdvisor in this handy application.

    We’ll bring you more favorites in the next week or so….so stay tuned!