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The iPhone: Your Ultimate Carry-on

July 30, 2009


It feels great to be back with AppAdvice. If you were wondering what had happened to me, take a look at my review for TravelTracker; but in a nutshell, I took a Hobbit’s journey. I had been invited this summer to talk in New Zealand on Social Media matters, so at the end of May I packed my bags and took off on Air New Zealand Flight 5 for Auckland. Seeing as I had never traveled this far before, I was working hard my "Travel Planning Fu" in trying to make all of my bags and carry-on's maximized in what they could hold. Prepping and packing for a trip like this also made me tap into the full potential of the very apps you’ll see me reviewing in my next few posts. Your iPhone, with the right tools and the right approach, can serve as the ultimate carry-on luggage; so before setting on that road or casting off on a sea cruise, take a moment to consider how your iPhone can help you make the most of your trip. img_04771The first thing you should do is start shopping for solid travel applications. You will want to track your flight and while there are widgets available for your computer’s desktop, it is a good idea to find one for your iPhone. There are two applications that offer an all-in-one flight planner and To Do list, Trips with TripIt (from Unitconvertr) and TravelTracker with TripIt (from Silverware Software, which I have reviewed). These apps will import your itinerary and provide any flight updates and (most importantly) weather changes directly to your iPhone. Much like car salesmen, politicians, and Social Media experts, weathermen are not to be trusted blindly. Atmospheric patterns can change on a dime. With up-to-date information accessible anywhere, you might find your stress levels exponentially lower with these apps on call. You can keep an eye on your flight as you travel between home and airport. You can also plan for unexpected mad dashes to connecting flights if a delay turns a one-hour layover into a five-minute sprint. Another fantastic attribute of both Trips and TravelTracker is that both will give you the ability to input more than just your air travel itinerary. Heading to Vegas? Maybe you’ve got tickets already in hand for Penn & Teller or Cirque du Soleil? (I recommend “O” — that’s a great show!) If this is a business trip (because in Vegas it’s always “business time”...), you might have a meeting scheduled, a presentation to give, or a client that insists the best place to talk is on the back nine. Trips and TravelTracker allow you to organize your out-of-town events, and even send reminders to you (either via email or from the app itself) of when it’s close to “Go” time. You can also keep your hotel and car reservations on call, just in case you’re told on arrival “I’m sorry, but we don’t have you listed staying with us.” These apps will have in a few taps your reservation, confirmation number, and your Preferred Member status, so you are covered on all fronts. You will also want to shop for some good games or maybe a pleasant distraction in the way of television or movies. On my flight from Washington to L.A., I was given the choice of either Bride Wars or…well, that was it. Fortunately on my iPhone I had downloaded and synced up a few video gems, one of them being “Mirror, Mirror” from the digitally-remastered Star Trek: The Original Series. It not only looked great on my iPhone, it also saved me from United Airlines' Chick Flick for the Flight. Now that you have the apps you need, you will want to prep the phone for your actual travel. If you’re road tripping, there will be little to no preparation involved. Air travel is another matter all together. Before stepping on board your flight to destinations coast-to-coast or abroad, pull up the Settings of your iPhone and run down this quick checklist:
  • Under WiFi, is your iPhone’s WiFi on or off?
  • Under Mail, Contacts, Calendars, is “Fetch New Data” set to “Push” or is it off?
  • Before the flight, is Airplane Mode on or off?
The final item on this checklist — Airplane Mode — is an important one. This is the mode you hear flight crew refer to just before takeoff. Airplane Mode tends to disable all your call and data push features, but my own checklist is more precautionary than necessary. By turning Airplane Mode on, you are assuring that your iPhone will not interfere with the plane’s operations. Before anyone says it, yes, I’ve seen the Mythbusters where Kari, Tori, and Grant disprove mobile phones cause interference with aeronautical instruments. However, FAA regulations are FAA regulations. Even the Build Team say so. Traveling internationally, like I did with my New Zealand adventure, makes my three-item checklist not so much precautionary, but more mandatory. Outrageous bills for data transfers tend to happen often to internationally-traveling AT&T customers (including a Mythbuster). In fact, it happens so often, I wonder if anyone is really paying attention and asking questions before traveling. What exactly does AT&T define as data? How do you find out what your average data rate is for a week? What are your options for data transfer when traveling international, be it Canada or New Caledonia? Many of these questions can be answered with AT&T’s myWireless, a free app dedicated to Customer Service for iPhone users. (In some cases, myWireless is a lot easier to work with than AT&T’s actual Customer Service, but I digress.) The best option when abroad, though, is to disable data pushing, disable wifi, and limit data exchanges to SMS messages. Then on activating international calling plans offered from myWireless, your iPhone is ready for international travel. These simple steps will avoid you facing outrageous phone bills such as the whopping $62,000 bill one user accrued when downloading a movie while in Mexico. These may sound like boneheaded catastrophes, but these horror stories usually involve people who are intelligent, savvy computer users that make simple mistakes and skip precautions. new_zealand-03Getting into a rush and forgetting things like your iPhone Settings is a human thing to do, especially when you’re running down your To Do list and making sure you are all set and ready to go. Before stepping on board your flight to destinations abroad, stop and take a few minutes to check if you have prepped your iPhone for travel. If you’re not certain, then pull up your Settings and run down my recommended checklist. These few adjustments may be all that is needed to prep your phone for travel, making the overall experience for you and your companions a better organized, safer, and saner trip to destinations elsewhere.

Mentioned apps

AT&T Inc.

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