Monday 20 November 2017

The 25 best free travel apps

Adrian Weckler's tech essentials for the business traveller.

Uber (iPhone, Android; free)

This is the service that everyone is talking about right now, not least because it’s in talks to raise hundreds of millions of euro in a move that could value the company at a whopping €7bn. Uber is a private taxi service that matches those needing a lift with professional drivers. You pay using a (pre-registered) credit card or PayPal through the app. Waiting times in Dublin are reasonably short, at around 10 minutes. It’s also available in many European, US and Asian cities.

Word Lens (iPhone, Android; free)

This is a really clever, free app that translates most modern languages simply by pointing your phone’s camera at a sign, sentence or document. It’s often clumsy, as one would expect: much depends on the size of the text involved and its construction (newspaper headlines, for example, are poorly translated). But as a free app, it’s excellent.

Expensify (iPhone, Android; free)

Receipts and expenses are the bane of the business person. This is a very easy-to-use, well laid-out app to log bills, credits, receipts, mileage and other common expenses. It gives you extra functionality, such as being able to import expenses from credit card or bank accounts.

Viber (iPhone, Android; free)

Roaming charges? What roaming charges? This is one of the apps that brings tears to mobile operators’ eyes. Intended mainly for smartphones, Viber allows you to make calls or send messages to anyone else with the Viber app. Just find a wifi hotspot and away you go.

Hailo (iPhone, Android; free)

It’s hard to think of an app that has done more to evolve the process of using an everyday service than Hailo. The clever app gives you a real-time view of taxis in your area (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick) and allows you to request one. You can pay by credit card, call the driver at any time and get a receipt via email.

Hotel Tonight (iPhone, Android; free)

This hotel-booking service is aimed at booking on the day you need the hotel. It offers a few high-end options, with which it negotiates special deals. It covers Dublin, the ‘West Coast’ and the ‘South Coast’.

Airbnb (iPhone, Android; free)

The fastest growing alternative to hotel-booking for business travellers has a very useable app with excellent apartments, houses and other forms of accommodation you can rent for a night or two in different cities.

SeatGuru (iPhone, Android; free)

For planning neurotics, this app allows you to check the seating plans of a flight to suss out where the best places are. It works for flights on 100 airlines, including Aer Lingus.

Cisco WebEx Meetings (iPhone, Android; free but part of WebEx subscription)

If you’re looking for high-class video conferencing, this is probably the best you can get. As well as top-class audio-visuals, it allows you to transfer other items – such as documents – among participants as you speak. It’s pricey, though.

Splashtop 2 (iPhone, Android; free)

Sometimes there’s no substitute for your work PC. It could be a file or a document you think you left on the desktop. Or it could be something within an application there. This app allows you to get a look at your desktop PC from your mobile device.

Hightail (iPhone, Android; free)

Anyone who finds YouSendIt useful might find this app handy. It lets you upload large files on your phone or tablet and share them instantly. It’s an efficient way to allow access to stuff. The only downside is that, unlike YouSendIt, you have to sign up for it.

Dublin Airport (iPhone, Android; free)

This is very handy for live information on departures, arrivals, airport layout and other important information.

XE Currency (iPhone, Android; free)

For immediate currency calculations and up-to-the-minute rates, this is a quick, simple app.

Trivago (iPhone, Android; free)

Trivago compares over 100 booking websites and collates the best deals it can find. In this way, it aggregates the biggest variety of options on a single screen.

Wifi finder (iPhone, Android; free)

One irritant for frequent travellers is exorbitant hotel wifi rates. This app shows you a bucketful of public wifi hotspots in your immediate vicinity, both free and paid.

Instapaper (iPhone, Android; free)

Getting on a plane usually means that you can’t catch up on your online reading. What this app does is to record and save web pages you visit in a nice, readable format for offline reading later.

Whatsapp (iPhone, Android; free)

This is another of many apps that allows you to contact, text or chat to colleagues with phones or tablets while bypassing most operator charges. The system works in the same basic way that an email works. The service even allows you to identify yourself by your mobile phone number.

Real Time Ireland (iPhone, Android; free)

If you’re getting around Ireland and want a single view of bus, train and Luas schedules, the National Transport Authority have put this app together. It’s basic but useable.

Tripit (iPhone, Android; free)

When travelling a lot, it helps to be organised. This app allows you to add travel confirmation emails into your Tripit schedule. It also neatly lays out appointments, reservations, maps and other travel-related items.

aMetro (Android; free)

This handy app shows you the metro, subway, bus and rail maps for 180 cities worldwide. When the app is downloaded, it gives you a menu of countries and cities to choose from.

Google Translate (iPhone, Android; free)

In a translation emergency, this translates words and phrases from one language into another. Including Irish, 69 languages are supported. Of these, about 20 can be 'spoken' (not Irish, unfortunately).

Skype (iPhone, Android; free)

While most of us think in terms of Whatsapp or Viber, the original online calling service allows you to set up a conversation with a friend for free. Alternatively, you can phone landlines or mobiles for a couple of cents per minute.

Kindle (iPhone, Android; free)

You don’t have to actually buy Amazon’s specific tablet to get the e-book service. The Kindle app works on almost any smartphone or tablet. It allows you to download books you've bought on another device (to the one you're holding). It also remembers where you last left off. It’s an ideal app to snack on a chapter or a favourite passage from time to time.

LogMeIn (iPhone, Android; free)

This app basically allows you to take complete control of a PC somewhere else, so long as that PC has downloaded Logmein's PC software, too. Very handy for light tech support.

Waze (iPhone, Android; free)

Waze is an app that allows you to check on traffic conditions. While Google Maps does a basic job of this, Waze is more detailed and allows you to update conditions on your own location.

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