When the smartphone was in its infancy and app stores were not yet operational, its best built-in app to help travelers was the Maps app. There were no walking directions provided, just a map that you needed to interpret to help you get to your destination.
These days, smartphones have so spoiled us that we wonder how we have lived without it.
For example, the technologically-advanced descendant of the first map app now features not only driving and walking directions, but also directions for those who take public transportation (for some countries, at least). This has made it easier for travelers to navigate through some foreign countries the same way that natives do.
With the right apps, you can turn your smartphone into an indispensable travel companion that can save you money; if your pockets cannot afford travel just yet, you can even do a little armchair traveling from your smartphone.
Below are some handy apps to have when exploring foreign territory:
Blux Camera Pro ($0.99, iOS)
Dubbed by its developers as “the world’s first smart camera,” Blux Camera has something called P.E.A.R. Technology, which analyzes data like light and weather and consequently recommends a filter and setting based on your environment.
Camera Plus Pro ($1.99, iOS)
Camera Plus Pro is another alternative to your phone’s regular camera app which lets you tweak more settings. Apply filters and see the effects before snapping your photo; edit and share from within the app. You can also create a private folder to hide certain photos, like your bajillion selfies.
Fewer and fewer people whip out their cameras and prefer to shoot with their smartphones. If you are not the type to back up to clean up your photo album once in a while, you would likely find that your photos have eaten up your phone’s memory or storage capacity. If you left your laptop at home and are traveling with just your phone, enable your Google+ account to automatically back up your photos; with your photos stored in the cloud, you will be able to free up space on your phone for more photos. Make sure however to enable this feature only on WiFi while abroad, as you might end up with a shocker of a phone bill if you are on a metered data roaming plan.
Google Maps (Free, iOS/Google Play)
This map just keeps getting better and better. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can use Google Maps to help you find your way around the city, even if it’s your first time getting there. Get turn by turn directions, and click on “Street view,” which will give you an actual view of your destination.
City Maps 2 Go (Free, iOS/Google Play)
If you want to navigate around a country but think that you might not always have Internet connection, City Maps 2Go’s offline maps will save you from stashing paper maps in your backpack. The map includes points of interest as well as travel guides culled from Wikipedia. Get the pro version ($2.99 for iOS) for more maps and features.
VSCO Cam (Free, iOS/Google Play)
This camera app with a minimalist user interface brings photography in focus with its gamut of throwback analog filters (requires in-app purchase). Some of the filters were built to mimic the color and grain of various films.
Pin Drop (Free, iOS)
Never forget anything visit-worthy, thanks to this app. Mark favorite places you want to remember, revisit or recommend to friends.
Metro (Free, iOS)
If octopus-like train station systems befuddle you, take out the guesswork with an app like Metro. Download your chosen city’s train system and let the app trace your path from point to point. •