This article first appeared in Getaway Magazine in February 2012 under the title:
Before we start it’s important to note that none of the featured apps need an internet connection to function, though they may try to access a 3G network to update ads or access help files. It’s best to turn your data connection off on the phone’s settings menu, especially if you’re across the border (read more on how to avoid the daylight robbery that is data roaming in my article on How to stay in touch while travelling).
Featuring images, distribution maps and descriptions of more than 950 birds, this great app is essentially a digital version of the Sasol Birds of Southern Africa field guidebook, but much better. There’s a Smart Search option, which allows you to identify that LBJ by beak shape, colour, size or habitat. Compare birds, store a list of sightings and verify an identity by matching it to one of 630 recorded birdcalls.
Costs US$29,99 (about R240).
The app is available on Android, BlackBerry, Apple and Windows Mobile platforms.
Also try these titles, which cost between $10 and $20, from www.mydigitalearth.com: The Kingdon eGuide to African Mammals, eTrees, eSnakes and eWildlife of Southern Africa.
Everyone needs a torch app and this one is excellent because it uses the phone’s camera flash LED instead of the screen so it’s brighter. It has a big central on/off button, an adjustable strobe function and a dedicated button that flashes an SOS signal. It’s free, but you can upgrade for $1,99. Your money gets rid of (unobtrusive) ads, allows a little more control over the functions and offers themed interfaces.
Free or upgrade for US$1,99 (about R16). Download from iTunes on your iDevice.
Pocket Universe, an amazing virtual sky astronomy app, demystifies the night sky using the iPhone or iPad’s built-in compass. All you do is hold the device up to the sky and the software will identify the star or constellation by labelling it on the screen as you move it around. It displays 10 000 stars and shows you past, current or upcoming lunar phases. pUniverse is so feature rich it’s almost intimidating. It’s impressive on the iPhone, but infinitely more useable and fun on the larger screen of the iPad. It works in real-time with no network connections required.
Coats US$2,99 (about R24). Download from iTunes on your iDevice.
For Android, try Google Sky Map (free).
This simple app is a fun way to bring an old 4×4 truck up to tech spec. It uses the smartphone’s built-in gyro to measure and display the vehicle’s pitch and roll. Pop it into a phone cradle, calibrate it on level ground and off you go.
Available for Apple and Android from 4x4App.com.
Costs US$0,99 (about R8).
For recording tracks, speed statistics, altitude, distance travelled, elapsed time, waypoints and anything GPS related, this app is tough to beat. You can set up live tracking so your friends can follow your progress online if you have a data connection. It offers functions for address searches and can function as a satnav in a pinch. Unfortunately, it’s Apple devices only for this one.
Costs US$2 (about R16) from MotionX or download directly from iTunes on your iDevice.
Tags: Android, android store, App, Apple and Windows Mobile, apps for travellers, appworld, BlackBerry, gadgets for travelling, iDevice, iPad, Itunes, mobile, mobile apps, smartphone, smartphones, software