Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Apps used on a recent road trip

I guess this is my way of chiming in on some recent intertubes discussion regarding links vs apps. I'm a strong believer in the browser & links but found the convenience of native iPhone apps on my recent cross country trip compelling.

Before departure, I remembered an interesting Marshall Kirkpatrick blog mention of GeoLoqi, an app that enables you to securely share your location. I normally don't want this function, but this solo trip seemed a prime opportunity to send close family and friends my whereabouts & progress. (Aside: since I was driving, I never did see the Wikipedia layer mentioned in the blog, though it sounds very cool). The app provides clear buttons/actions to both turn on and publish your location data. I sent mine via email & SMS but you can also share via Twitter/Facebook. Or a plain old "copy link" to do as you please. It sends a link to the recipient that opens up a map with your location. It was neat to receive location related texts back from family & friends - my mother-in-law asked me to "wave to Bill and Hill for me" just outside Little Rock, AR, and "give Elvis my love" in Memphis, TN. A few friends reacted with "cool app". So overall people enjoyed the ability to see my progress and I appreciated the interaction. No doubt the app could have a bit of creep factor if you didn't have so much control over who you shared with. Just don't forget to turn off the location tracking! You can set the duration up front. Said mother-in-law told us not to go to dinner at the Ponderosa since there was a Perkins across the street! Turning location off now...

So you're probably asking "isn't texting while driving dangerous?" Yes, it is. Witness the greatness of HeyTell! It's voice messaging so you don't need to type. Press the "Hold And Speak" button, talk, let go, and voila, a voice message is sent to your contact. It's cross-platform as well - my sister on Android can message me. I had this app prior to the trip but rarely used it as more than a novelty. The trip proved the power of the app and I will definitely be using it more now. Plus, who actually likes typing on an iPhone?! It was kind of a pain to make the initial connection in the app (not really, but while you're driving it can be), but once linked, it's extremely easy & convenient.

Mapquest is by far the best, cheapest turn-by-turn GPS navigation I've used. OK, maybe it's the only free voice guided one I've used. But it's pretty good - I use this app a lot. Google Maps is great but the Mapquest voice turn-by-turn  is the killer feature. I've tried Waze but I don't think it's there yet. Mapquest does have glitches but the price overrides them. Although I did re-start the app when it told me to do a u-turn on I-81 in the middle of Tennessee. Huh?

DropVox, like HeyTell, was a bit underrated in my app collection but proved useful on this trek. And again like HeyTell, very simple to click, record an audio note, and upload to your Dropbox account. If you like that sort of thing, check it out. I'm trying to remind myself to do more voice notes earlier so I don't forget things. Don't call it a resolution, please.

Some obvious apps below but used a lot on my trip:
Pandora (although I still want to use Slacker more)
Messages (SMS/text/MMS/iMessage)
Camera (interesting political statements in the rest area restrooms needed documentation)
TheWeatherChannel (I've been meaning to go back to the native iPhone/Yahoo! Weather app)
SoundHound (for identifying song titles from the car radio when not using Pandora)