I finally broke down and switched to an iPhone. It’s not because I didn’t like my Nokia E-61, in fact, while those around me were going crazy over the iPhone, I held out and dutifully texted on my qwerty keyboard. The reason I switched to the iPhone was two-fold. Firstly, I wanted a multi-purpose device, one that could do all the same things as my Nokia but also take photos, play music, watch movies, and surf the web (more elegantly). The second reason was because there are a huge number of applications available for the iPhone that are simply not available on other platforms.
Over the last few days I’ve been evaluating applications in preparation for my busy travel schedule. Primarily I wanted to find applications that help me to make the most of my travels, such as taking photos, messaging, and location based services. Here are the five apps I think are must haves for any avid traveller (both leisure and business):
1. Night Camera is a camera application that allows you to take low-light photos. The reason I like this app is because I have always found taking photos at conferences and workshops a real pain. This app uses the iPhone accelerometer to stabilize the camera during low light conditions. The result is good quality photos without a flash.
2. Fring is an instant message app that combines your standard services like MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ with Skype so that you can use your WIFI connection to make free or cheap phone calls. To test the capabilities of Fring I had a conference call with my friend and fellow travel tech bloggers Phil Caines (in Vancouver) and Fabienne Rabiosi (in Australia). I connected to Fring using the WIFI connection in my office while Phil and Fabienne were both on Skype via desktops or laptops. The cost of the conference call? Free, all the way around.
3. Pano is a app that allow you to take panoramic photos using your iPhone. Given that the iPhone camera is only 2 MegaPixels, the fact that you can take multiple shots and seamlessly stitch them together without any extra software is pretty amazing. I was pleasently surprised with the quality of the panoramas that the software can create. When you combine Pano with Night Camera, you can take some amazing night panoramas.
4. Now that you’ve taken those amazing photos, you need to upload them somewhere so you can share them with your friends. I recommend you use Shozu, which is a photo uploading app that allows you to connect to and upload your photos to multiple social media sites including Facebook, Flickr, PhotoBucket, and Photoshop.com.
5. So you have arrived at your hotel and you’re desperate for a good cup of coffee, so where do you go? Well, check with AroundMe and you can find coffee shops, theatres, banks, and other common amenities, all within walking distance to your current location. The only drawback to AroundMe is that there seems to be limited support for cities outside of North America. Ofcourse, I’llbe able to test this as soon as I travel to Europe.
If you are a daring individual and feel comfortable with JailBreaking your iPhone, there is one other application that I would recommend you consider. First of all, I highly recommend you use QuickPwn to JailBreak your iPhone. I tried three other applications and QuickPwn is the only one that worked properly and without any issues. Once your iPhone is JailBroken you can install Cycorder, an application that allows you take video with your iPhone (something not natively supported). The quality of the video is actually quite good and comparable to the quality that you would get from a point and shoot camera. This is due to the use of MJPEG compression which apparently is the same compression technique used in the majority of point-and-shoot digital cameras. Thanks to the compression technique you can also watch the video immediately after recording it. If you want your friends to see what you are up to in real-time, you can also download Qik. Qik allows you to stream video directly from your phone via 3G or WIFI. Remember, this is not for the faint of heart so please consult with a geeky friend before you attempt to break your phone out of it’s manufacturer jail.