15 Phone Apps to Take With You on Holiday

Many of us have a smart phone. Yet how many of us actually use all its power? The other functions are a complete mystery. If we restrict ourselves to calls and text we are missing out big time. Here I take a look at the apps (software programs) that can improve our holiday experience.

Given that most hotels offer free Wi-Fi these days, cost need not be an issue when on holiday. Nor should the cost of the apps, that are explored below. They are all free!

So let’s take a look at the free apps available that we can use to improve our holiday experience. I shall keep it simple. All the apps I recommend are ones I used on my recent holiday to Italy. None are difficult though they have features I do not mention, usually because I personally don’t use them. All the apps are linked to Google Play Store for convenience although there are other sites from which they may be downloaded. I have an android phone, but similar apps exist for an iPhone or Blackberry.

Google TranslateIn first place is Google Translate, I can’t praise this too much. Type out the word in English and the Italian (or whatever) comes up. Take a photo of a menu and hey presto (hei presyo) the correct English materialises. Better, speak your request into the microphone and, if you are connected via free Wi-Fi or your contract, the Italian comes out of the speakers. Magic free easy. (Magic gratis facile)

GNotesGNotes is an easy note maker to which one can add photos from the camera. I wrote up my notes for this article using this free app. A feature is a simple forwarding process to your nominated email address.

SwiftKeyGNotes works so well due to its interaction with a further free app, SwiftKey, with an uncanny way of anticipating what I am typing and correcting the blemishes. Essentially it is the predictive text feature on steroids. It offers guesses as to the correct word allowing for a simple tap on the appropriate word. For example, “example” was offered as a choice merely by my typing the word, “For”. The app is so good I never make misstakes!

QuickPicA decent free app to view your photos is QuickPic, allowing instant access to your treasured snaps, whilst giving some simple editing features. A tap on the site screen and the image can be uploaded to Facebook, cloud or email.

Timely Alarm ClockA coach tour requires frequent uses of an alarm clock with automatic updating of the time zone if you are not to wake alone in the hotel, the remainder of the party having long since set off on their itinerary. I use Timely Alarm Clock, an app that can be configured in a number of stunningly beautiful ways, mine being undersea blue with subtle bubbles. More importantly, it is a breeze to set the alarm. I set the alarm itself to play soothing music that wakes me without setting my teeth on edge.

AvastFor peace of mind when using your phone it is as well to have a good security system. Avast is free for the basic system and does all the unexciting but necessary checks. A quick virus scan takes three minutes or so. I’ve never had a problem reported by the program however. There are other extras such as anti-theft, firewall and a call filter.

TuneIn RadioTake advantage of your hotel’s free Wi-Fi with TuneIn Radio and its host of Internet radio stations, remarkably clear from all over the world. Don’t forget the old Beeb which has its own apps though I use Tunein Radio for convenience. I listened in the bath to a podcast as we trounced the Indian cricket team in the Test series. You can choose your favourite stations.

ShuttleI have tried all the free music player apps, finally settling on Shuttle primarily because it is so simple and doesn’t try to sell me anything. It is easy to sort out a playlist without having to resort to the stifling iTunes and a computer.

An odd app next but one that has served me well at moments of mishap, SwissArmyKnife has a variety of gadgets most useful being the torch, handy for finding the dropped coins or whatever on the dark coach floor, or when a thunderstorm cuts the lights as happened to me twice in Austria last year. There’s also a magnifying glass for examining the bar bill at the end of your stay.

XE CurrencyOn the subject of money, XE Currency gives me a readily accessible currency converter that is automatically updated to reflect world rates. Purchases no longer have that faintly unsettling feeling of uncertainty. It also reveals just how much it costs to buy money at the foreign exchanges.

MortPlayer Audio BooksI can’t envisage a long coach journey without the company of my audiobook. I have two iPods, but neither offer me the flexibility of MortPlayer Audio Books. When I doze off and the murder has been solved I can quickly backtrack to discover the what’s whys and wherefores. I can even set the book to stop after a certain point when listening at night.

Moon+ Reader Moon+ Reader is my emergency ebook reader should my Kindle spring a leak or go walkabout. It has a day or night mode. It goes without saying that a large phone or tablet is required to make the best use of this app.

That’s it then, a whole suitcase of freebies to make your holiday go with a bang, whiz, twinkle or indeed any colour you care to choose. All fitted into a slender device that fits neatly into purse or pocket.

Remember you will use data on your mobile when using these apps on the go while being abroad. This is called “Roaming” and charges may apply depending on the type of data allowance you have with your mobile provider. Please check Roaming prices with your mobile provider before travelling as these are different depending on the destination. Here’s a tip: To avoid any charges, you can always access the internet and use apps over Wi-Fi.

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Ian Lumsden

Retired deputy headteacher & writer

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