Smart phones have revolutionized the way many of us travel. The first iPhone running the iOS was released in 2007 and only 3 short years ago the Android OS was just a buzzword. Since the advent of both, the world just hasn't been the same. My friend, client and fellow geek, George McGolrick - owner at Hotel la Finisterra here in Costa Rica - has his fingers on the pulse of mobile technology, as do most of his guests - they're a pretty tech savvy bunch! He's noticed 4 apps that just about all of his guests with smart phones use. I added a 5th in this post.
1. magicJack APP (iPhone, Android): If you live in North America, travel and have not heard of magicJack, you're either dead or living in a cave. magicJack is a device that plugs into a USB (Not USB3) port on the user's computer (or in the case of magicJack Plus, plugs directly into a router), and that has a standard RJ-11 phone jack into which any standard phone can be plugged. It provides Internet-based telephone service (VoIP) to the United States and Canada. Pretty cool, right?!
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! Now anyone with an iPhone or Android can use the magicJack APP to call anywhere in the U.S. or Canada for FREE! You don't need your computer to place calls. All you need is a WiFi connection (will work on 3G, 4G too) and you're able to call and receive calls via your iPhone (You'll actually get a free telephone number from magicJack so your friends and family can call you on your smart phone). Existing magicJack customers can sign in to magicJack APP with an active U.S. or Canadian phone number on their magicJack account and may use it to make and receive calls with the magicJack APP. I think this one's revolutionary!
2. Instagram APP (iPhone, Android): Two months ago, Instagram celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the first photo taken with Instagram.
Since that date over 50 million people have shared more than 1 billion photos on Instagram. In April of 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram (and its 13 employees) for $1 billion. What’s my point? It’s a pretty popular app, and that's an understatement!
So what is Instagram? Instagram is a free photo sharing program that allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it and then share it on a variety of social networking services [Twitter, Facebook (personal and business Timelines), Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare] as well as Instagram’s own network. Photos are confined to a square shape – a throwback to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images - and the filters allow users to be creative and add even more personality to their photos. And the square format works great with social media. Frankly, I find it addictive. Once you start taking photos with Instagram, you probably won’t stop! The filters are awesome!
3. Google Translate APP (iPhone, Android): Supports 64 different languages - one of them happens to be Spanish. This little app is not only useful, it's pretty darn fun too! Travelers can either type or speak their native language into their smart phone and then see the written translation and/or listen to the spoken translation via the app. This one becomes a hilarious bar game after a few cocktails! ¡Pura vida!
4. Google Earth APP (iPhone, Android): OK... So this one is just plain cool. If you're like me and so many others like me, you can immerse yourself in Google Earth for hours without knowing the time is passing. I didn't list any GPS APP's here because there are so many. But if you have one on your smart phone, like most techie travelers do, you can plug-in your coordinates and zero in on your location on the Google Earth APP and see what's interesting nearby. I love taking screen captures and posting them or tweeting them out to my friends, family and followers to make them jealous! You can have a ton of fun with this one!
5. TuneIn Radio Pro (iPhone, Android): No matter where you are in the world, TuneIn Radio is there with you. That means you can bring your favorite radio stations in L.A. or Chicago with you to your destination AND explore new vibes and sounds at your destination(s). Enable location services and you can search for local radio stations at your destination. Add those stations to your presets and bring the sounds and vibes of your vacation home with you to amaze your friends and family (and maybe your dog)!
The TuneIn Radio free version (iPhone, Android) allows you to listen to music only. The pro version that costs 99 cents allows you to record the station you're listening to. That's key if you're in a country where your SIM card won't work while you're on the road away from WiFi. So you can record music at your hotel hotspot, then hop in your rent-a-car and hit the road or lay on a deserted beach and listen to what you've recorded until you can get to another hotspot. NICE!
So even though your SIM card may not work in Costa Rica or Nigeria, and you may not have cellular coverage, there is usually plenty of WiFi available (unless your on an Everest assault or canoeing up the Amazon). And with these apps you can stay connected with friends, family and co-workers and have a wonderful time poolside or at the beach sipping a cold tropical drink while you make everyone jealous back home.