Mike Haney puts the latest smartphone applications to the test to find which make work — and life — easier on the road.
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ON THE MOVE
Organize your itinerary:TripIt is the easiest way to consolidate all your travel details—flights, hotels, cars, events—on one site. Just forward your confirmation e-mails to email@example.com and the site will instantly pull the relevant info and build your itinerary. The app includes basic flight tracking, terminal maps, driving directions, and airplane-seat advice (good for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone; free); the Pro service adds loyalty-program tracking and recommends other flights if yours is canceled ($69 per year). Though a bit slower to upload your trip details, TripCase works in a similar manner and automatically adds itineraries booked through a Sabre reservation system (good for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile; free).
Keep an eye on your flight: Most flight-tracking apps offer international coverage and gate info and update TripIt itineraries. What sets FlightTrack Pro apart is its push alerts: notifications of flight delays or cancellations that buzz your phone even when the app isn't open. Like most apps, FlightTrack gets its data from FlightStats, which bundles info from the FAA and airlines (good for Android, iPhone; $10).
Book last-minute flights, hotels, and car rentals: For sheer comprehensiveness, Kayak's app is a good place to start any search (good for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile; free); Kayak First lets you search for premium-class seats ($2). But when it comes to booking hotels, it's much faster to use Android's Hotels Near Me, BlackBerry's HRS Hotel Organizer, or iPhone's HotelPal—all save your account info to spare you tedious typing (free).
Kill time at the airport: GateGuru provides terminal-specific guides to restaurants, bars, shops, and services at 85 U.S. airports (good for iPhone; free).
ON THE GROUND
Find a taxi:TaxiMagic ties directly into dispatch systems in 25 U.S. cities, so you can use the app to book a cab, track its progress toward you, and pay. In other cities, it'll bring up numbers of local companies (good for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone; free). Cab4me lets users rank taxi services (free with Android; $3 with BlackBerry; $1 with iPhone), while Rocket Taxi covers several European countries including Germany, Italy, and Spain (good for iPhone; $2); both provide numbers of local cab companies.
Find a restaurant:ZagatToGo covers many corners of the world with its quirky point-based reviews ($10 with Android and iPhone; $20 with BlackBerry and Windows Media). The augmented-reality version, nru, displays the closest options, though it shows only the scores and prices, not the reviews (good for Android; free). More targeted, LocalEats queries local foodies to choose the top 100 restaurants in the 50 biggest American cities and sorts by Best Cheese Steak, Best Brasserie, etc. ($1 with Android and iPhone; $3 with BlackBerry Storm only).
Find Wi-Fi: There's no comprehensive Wi-Fi hotspot finder, so it's best to download a few free apps that will search both paid and free access. Wi-Fi Finder covers 135 countries_some more thoroughly than others (it lists only four hotspots in all of Jordan)—but requires an Internet connection to search its database (good for Android and iPhone; free), while WiFi Get can query its worldwide database offline and display signal strength and security (good for iPhone; free).
Find anything: Siri Assistant is a "concierge" app—essentially a smart voice-activated interface for several other apps and services, including Yelp, Google Maps, and OpenTable. Just say or type commands like "find a Chinese restaurant in Boston on Friday" and it'll bring up the appropriate interface. It can be slow on older iPhones, but it's surprisingly accurate (good for iPhone; free).
Speak the language:Bieks Talking Phrasebooks are indispensable. Words and phrases not only appear on-screen but a human voice pronounces them perfectly (good for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile; $15). The iPhone has several similar apps, but for short trips, Babelingo is the handiest. It doesn't require a connection and offers quick access to key phrases like "May I see the room first?" in 11 languages, including Hindi. There's no audio, so just flash the onscreen phrase at a local ($3).
ON THE JOB
Collect contacts: Snap a photo of a business card and WorldCard Mobile adds the info to your contacts. It's remarkably accurate and works in seven languages ($6 with iPhone; $25 with Windows Mobile).
Work on a file: You won't want to type a report on your iPhone, but QuickOffice is great for making minor edits to Word and Excel files attached to e-mails or in online storage services like DropBox, Box.net, and Google Docs ($15 with BlackBerry; $10 with iPhone). DocumentsToGo adds Powerpoint editing and desktop syncing, but both are cumbersome ($30 with Android and Windows Mobile; $50 with BlackBerry;$15 with iPhone).
Print from anywhere:PrintMagic, the easiest remote-printing app to set up, automatically finds printers on your network. It lets you wirelessly print photos, Web pages, or copy-and-pasted text (good for iPhone; $7). PrinterShare Premium can send files directly to a wireless printer (good for Android; $5), as can ActivePrint, which can also connect to a printer via cable ($4 with iPhone; $20-$40 with Windows Mobile).
Grab a file off your home PC:VNC Viewer lets you tunnel into your home computer from your iPhone and control your desktop as if you were sitting in front of it (good for iPhone; $10). To transfer Word and other files between your phone and multiple computers, use the Dropbox service and app (good for iPhone; free); for access on Android or BlackBerry, go to dropbox.com from your browser.
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