It's hard for me to believe that I didn't have an iPhone until this past November. (I was a Blackberry gal for two years before that.) Now I'm one of those annoying iPhone evangelists — always showing it off, trying to convince people to get one and insisting that you adapt to the touchscreen keyboard really quickly. The easiest way to impress them? There's an app for that. Speaking of which, here are five apps that I absolutely can't live without when I'm traveling.
1. Cambio: This free app (pictured left) is terrific for traveling abroad as it does currency and measurement conversions. This way, when someone tells me that a charming Italian town is 30 km away, I know that's just 18 miles, which isn't so bad. Or if someone remarks that some celebrity only weighs seven stones, I know they mean 98 pounds. But the best part of Cambio is using for currency conversions. It's automatically updated at least daily so it's always calculating the most current values. And it's so easy to use.
I have to admit, however, that when I was shopping at Ted Baker in Nottingham, I deliberately did not use this app to figure out how much my sweater was truly costing me. It can be a little depressing to do the dollar-pound conversion!
2. Perfectly Clear: While the iPhone camera is still better than that of most mobile phones,there's still plenty of room for improvement. That's why I love the photo-editing tool of Perfectly Clear app — you open the app, select your photo and then it will give it an instant fix. If you're not happy with the fix (which is usually a combination of brightening and sharpening), then you can manipulate the different enhancements yourself but it's rare that you have to that because the app is so good. It costs $2.99 but it's worth it if you like uploading your iPhone photos to Facebook or emailing them to friends.
I also have PerfectPhoto, but I don't like it as much. There isn't an automatic enhancement feature like Perfectly Clear, so you play with the contrast/brightness/sharpness levels yourself. One advantage over Perfectly Clear is that it has a crop feature, which can be useful. It also has a fun effects that can make your photo look vintage or like a pencil drawing, which isn't something I typically need. It is cheaper than Perfectly Clear, costing $1.99.
3. The Weather Channel: Is it totally geeky to love knowing what the temperature is right now and what it be every hour for the next several hours? Well of course, but that doesn't stop me. It's just so helpful for planning. Also, I love that it gives you the time of the sunset — very important information if you love photographing sunsets. I use the free version of this app, although there is a premium version you can pay for.
4. Yelp, MenuPages and OpenTable: These three free apps are completely separate, but I've grouped them together because they all help you accomplish the same thing: choosing a good restaurant. They can all work in tandem with each other quite nicely. I've grown to really appreciate the quantity of the user reviews on Yelp, as it seems that you can find a recent review of most eateries in the US (although it is branching out to Canada, Ireland and the UK). It's particularly good if you're wandering around a town and you're trying to decide between a few different restaurants that all seem similar.
MenuPages is most helpful if you've been recommended a few restaurants and you want to know the prices and the dishes. Menupages only covers NYC, San Francisco, Boston, LA, Philly, Chicago, Washington DC and South Florida.
OpenTable lets you make reservations at participating restaurants in the US and abroad. In Manhattan, you have 899 restaurants to choose from. In Barcelona, there's only seven. But still, it can be useful when you want the convenience of having a restaurant reservation without the hassle of having to call and make one. If you have Yelp and MenuPages, you can find out more about the restaurant before you make the reservation. (Or after, and then cancel it!)
5. Scramble: OK, this one really has nothing to do with travel. But if you're stuck on a long line or a boring train ride, playing Scramble will make your wait fly by. This free app is sort of like Boggle, in that you have to form words that are at least three letters long from letters that are connected to each other. Each game lasts two or three minutes, and you'd be amazed how quickly time passes when broken into short intervals.Warning: It's highly addictive.
What are your favorite iPhone apps for travel?