iPhone Traveler Pt. 5: Choosing the right iPhone case

iphoneseagrass

Many people like to use the iPhone “naked,” and I can see why. It looks and feels great just as Apple designed it. That’s fine for daily out-and-about, but I always keep mine in a case while traveling. There’s a risk of it getting jostled around, handled at airport security, or dropped while you fumble with other things.

The type of case you choose depends on several factors. First, what types of conditions will your iPhone be subject to? Will others handle it? Are you likely to drain the battery?

I’ve listed several types of cases to meet all types of scenarios, from underwater to long hours of use. Some offer protection of the elements, some convenience and others will keep your iPhone’s battery going and going. Read on to find several types of iPhone cases.

Battery backups

juicepackSince I recommend that you use your iPhone extensively while traveling, I’ll start with battery backup cases. These add bulk and weight but also greatly extend your iPhone’s battery life. In my estimation, the trade-off is worth it. The best ones can be turned on and off, so you can control when you’re pulling on their reserve. Here are a few of my favorites.

Mophie Juice Pack
Cost: $99.95 (iPhone 5), $79.95 (iPhone 4, 4S)
Compatibility: iPhone 4/4S/5

I’ve been using the Mophie Juice Pack for years. It consists of two pieces that slide over your iPhone, as well as a USB charging cable. The cable is compatible with most computers’ USB port as well as the USB AC adapter that Apple sells for the iPhone.

The Juice Pack itself charges quickly when connected to a wall socket with the AC adapter. And, if you connect the Juice Pack to a wall outlet with your iPhone inside, both devices will be charged.
Four status lights on the bottom provide an indication of its remaining charge (one to four) and a switch on the lower left lets you turn it on when needed. I use the Juice Pack by turning it on once my iPhone’s battery has drained to 20%. That typically gets it back up to 80%, providing hours of additional use.

Third Rail TRIO
Cost: $89.99
Compatibility: iPhone 4/4S (iPhone 5 model is in development as of this writing)

The Third Rail system is unique in that the battery itself is removable, and snaps onto the back of the Third Rail iPhone case. The case itself is quite slim without the battery attached and less bulky than others with the battery in place. Each snap-on battery can be charged while on the case or on its own with the provided USB charging cable. What’s more, the battery can be used as a hub while it’s being charged itself, so connect one other USB-powered mobile device (like an iPod or another smartphone) and charge it up, too.

Finally, the batteries are swappable between Third Rail cases, so you can share them with a travel partner.

Fastmac iV
Cost: $79.95 − 99.99 (varies by model)
Compatibility: iPhone second generation, 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S

The iV from Fastmac is a slide-in case with two unique features. First, it’s compatible with Apple’s iPhone dock, meaning you needn’t remove it to dock your iPhone. While docked, both the iV and iPhone are charged. It also features an LED flash which can be used as a flashlight or when taking photos (the original iPhone 3G and 3GS did not have a flash).

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iPhone Traveler Pt. 4 – Home screen and alerts

iphonepasspordThe iPhone apps you use while on vacation will be different from those you use while at work or during typical home life. At least I hope so. Keeping our focus on convenience and ease, I’ll suggest that you make adjustments to the the apps on your home screen, the alerts your iPhone delivers and more before departing for a trip. Here are the changes I make to my iPhone while preparing to spend time away.

Re-organize Applications

Your iPhone 5 can display 24 application icons per screen. Folders hold 16 apps each. That means you can have well over 200 applications on your home screen. I don’t recommend doing that, but it suggests that having a lot of apps installed doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of swiping between screens. It also means that things can get crowded quickly, making it hard to find what you’re after.

With this in mind, I consider which apps I’ll use during my trip, and move them to the home screen. The rest are pushed to subsequent screens, reducing visual clutter and saving me from playing “hide and go seek” with my iPhone. I typically have these apps on my home screen during a trip:

  1. Mail
  2. Phone
  3. Safari
  4. Maps
  5. Messages
  6. Camera
  7. Evernote
  8. Kayak
  9. Motion-X GPS Drive
  10. Path
  11. Rego
  12. Rdio
  13. Any destination-specific apps

I’ll discuss my favorite travel apps later this month, but this is my core group. Each has a specific job.

Most of these apps have obvious functions: phone calls, a web browser, Maps, text messages, music and the camera for shooting photos and video. The others have specific duties.

Evernote is my database for everything. It lets me create and browse a fast, lightweight and searchable repository of all the specifics I’ll need. Hotel information, airport details, parking locations, confirmation numbers and so much more are all a tap away. In fact, my “everything database” has all but eliminated paper from my travel materials.

  • Motion-X GPS Drive is my preferred turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. It’s reliable, inexpensive and easy to use. Advanced features like saved searches and synthetic voices that are genuinely easy to understand make it a winner.
  • Path is a social networking application with an interesting premise. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which invite users to broadcast their comings and goings to whoever will listen, Path asks you to invite a handful of family and friends to share your favorite moments. I often use it with my family, most of whom also do a fair amount of traveling.
  • Rego lets me maintain a record of all the interesting places I’ve visited, which I enjoy reviewing. I can also note places I’d like to visit and create an on-the-go itinerary that sorts itself by proximity.

Finally, I’ll add any destination-specific apps I find. For instance, there are several great apps available for navigating Walt Disney World Resort. In 2011, Macy’s released an official Thanksgiving Day Parade app. Search the App Store for apps related to your destination. I bet you’re successful most of the time.

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The iPhone Traveler Pt. 3 – Pre-load bookmarks in Maps

mapsontheroad

Note: I know that many of you dislike Apple’s Maps app. If that’s the case, consider this week’s sponsor, Rego, as an alternative when pre-loading map bookmarks. It does much the same as I’ve described here, with the added benefit of itinerary planning. For example, identify your hotel as the Active Location, and then all of  your other bookmarks are automatically sorted by proximity. Very cool. –Dave

Traveling with an iPhone is like having a hotel concierge with you at all times. Just as you can approach the concierge desk in the hotel and ask for directions, for recommendations, or even for a cab, your iPhone is happy to provide the same services. I like to add points of interest as bookmarks in Apple’s Maps before I go.

Why should you do this? There are several reasons. As you travel, you could find yourself with a poor data connection just when you need some information. Also, it saves time. You don’t want to be searching for the hotel while you’re on the airport shuttle, for example.

This goes beyond the hotel. A few years ago my family was in New York City when we suddenly needed to get to a pharmacy. If I had added one that was close to my hotel before leaving, that would have soothed a potentially stressful situation.

Be prepared and gain peace of mind by adding points of interest to your iPhone before you depart. That way, you’ll have each location’s address, phone number, website and directions (driving, walking and public transportation). Here’s how to stock your personal concierge desk with answers to go.

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The iPhone Traveler Pt. 2 – Back up, pack and get tickets

iphoneandtix

A good vacation, like so many other things in life, will be more successful with ample planning. Your iPhone is more than up to the task! In this section, I’ll explain how to back up important information before you leave (and retrieve it if disaster strikes), pack your things in an orderly way and finally find tickets for a plane, a train and a hotel.

Why use an iPhone for these tasks? There are several reasons. My favorite is the wealth of beautiful, useful and convenient apps that are available. The travel industry has embraced Apple’s pocket-sized computer and we, the travelers, benefit. It’s so very easy to find a hotel, flight or bus when it’s convenient for us. Don’t want to pay a lot? Finding bargains with an app is easy, too. Plus, dedicated apps are so much easier to use than starting from scratch with Google.

Also, skipping email and printed tickets means less “stuff” to carry, loose and accidentally rip or destroy. There’s no fishing for “which pocket or case did I put that in” when the answer is, “It’s just here on my phone.” It’s a tremendous convenience. So, let’s get started by performing a good, reliable backup.

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The iPhone Traveler Pt. 1 – Pre-vacation planning

iphonepasspordApple’s iPhone is the best computer I’ve ever owned. It’s powerful yet fits in my pocket. It gets fantastic battery life and, with the proper protection, can withstand the bumps and bruises of daily use. It’s always connected to the Internet and can be almost whatever you want it to be, from an email client to a GPS receiver. It’s a camera and a weather station; a jukebox and a concierge. In other words, your iPhone is the perfect travel companion.

In this series of posts, I’ll describe how I use my iPhone to manage every aspect of a vacation. It’ll break down like this:

  • Pre-vacation planning
  • Making the journey
  • Getting the most of your destination
  • Returning home
  • Preserving and sharing the memories

I’ll share the apps that I use, review related products and have a few surprises along the way. I mean the good kind of surprise, not the “your water heater has been quietly leaking into the basement since 2 AM” kind. I’ll also making a few assumptions.

First, I assume you own an iPhone and that it’s up and running to your satisfaction. [1. I’ve got a post on setting up an iPhone from scratch that I can save for the end of the month if people request it.]

[pullquote]As of this writing, there are over 500,000 apps available in Apple’s App Store. I encourage you to consider the apps I’ll describe this month (after all, I’ve listed them because I enjoy them so much), but I also suggest you conduct a search of your own. It’s possible that the “mother of all travel apps” has been released since this article was published. If you find it, install it and love it, and please let me know.[/pullquote]

There are a few other things to keep in mind as you read these articles, other than how handsome and talented I am. First, all prices are US dollars unless otherwise specified. Also, app prices, functioning and availability may have changed since the time of publication. See each app’s online description for up-to-date details. Also, the apps I suggest this month are starting points. I do not believe that any one app is the definitive solution to a given need, even those I personally swear by, because everyone’s preferences and needs are different. Also, the sheer number of iPhone apps available make it impossible to identify any one as a definitive solution.

Finally, this series will focus on traveling within the continental United States of America. Later this month, I’ll share my detailed suggestions for international travel, including dealing with overseas charges. Also, while all of the apps I describe may be purchased through the US App Store, they may not necessarily be available in versions of the store outside the US. With the large number of available apps, you are likely to find a different one that will work well for you.

Now, let’s get started.

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iPhone travel series starts tomorrow

wingandclouds
And yes, I took this photo with my iPhone

When I was young, my sisters and I would climb into the back of my parents’ station wagon and leave our Pennsylvania home with a Triptik from AAA and a cooler full of soda. With Dad behind the wheel, we’d travel to rural New York, Philadelphia or Maryland. Long hours were made tolerable with games of License Plates, I Spy or — much to my parents’ chagrin — Annoy Your Siblings. Those were happy times, but most of all, I remember the thrill of discovery.

[pullquote]I can plan, execute and recall a family vacation, a weekend getaway, a business trip or a once-in-a-lifetime excursion with Apple’s pocket-sized computer. It’s replaced all of that paper and helps ensure that nothing gets lost — including the vacationers.[/pullquote]

It was exciting to see a new city with unfamiliar buildings and people, novel restaurants, and scenery. Those experiences fostered a powerful wanderlust in me that’s as active today as it’s ever been. When people ask me what I remember most clearly from my childhood vacations, my answer is always the same: the joy of finding something new.

Today, some things have changed, and for the better. The most pronounced difference is the hardware I use to get to my destination  There are no more Triptiks, hand written notes, paper tickets, huge maps or boarding passes. Now, they’ve all been replaced by my iPhone.

Tomorrow I’ll begin my new series on traveling with your iPhone with a post on getting ready. Basic iPhone prep for the travel. I’ll see you then!

This article is part of a series on traveling with your iPhone. You’ll find the other articles here.

Traveling with your iPhone

daveatphillipes

It’s a rainy Tuesday evening in Paris. My sister and I are exploring the neighborhood around our hotel. It’s our first time in France and we want an authentic Parisian dinner. We don’t have a guidebook, a map or a smartphone. We’re just walking, enjoying the twists and turns and hoping that a restaurant will present itself.

At last we find La Varanque, known colloquly known as “Philippe’s.” It looks dark inside. so I raise my hand to my forehead and press it against the window. Inside I see a bald man in his late 40’s wearing a white T-shirt and a stained apron. He notices me, points to the clock on the wall and then spreads his fingers wide. Five minutes. My sister and I wait outside.

At last, Philippe opens the door and welcomes us in broken English. We sit and he brings us a carafe of red wine. Later he returns with menus and we ask him to bring whatever is good. Soon enough we’re dining on escargot and beef bourguignon. There’s more wine.

insidephillipes

A woman enters, dripping from the rain, carrying a large glass bowl that she bought from a flea market near the restaurant (my sister and I had walked past it during our restaurant hunt). We excahnge a quick “Bonjour!” with her and she begins talking to Philippe. As she does, the bowl slips from her hands and smashes on the floor. I help her pick up the pieces until Philippe returns with a broom and a dustpan. The grateful woman thanks us, pulls up a chair and spends the next fifteen minutes or so discussing her life in Paris and our lives in America. She struggles with English and we struggle with French, but that didn’t matter. We were all laughing together, smiling, eating, connecting. Four human beings who had never met before and, likely, will never see each other again. Enjoying each other’s company. Enjoying being human, alive in the same, temporary moment. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

escargotsinparis

That’s why we travel.

There is nothing like experiencing a culture that’s completley foreign. Like connecting with people who do not live as you do, through their music, their food, their clothing, songs, holidays and flea market purchases, both broken and intact. I love travel, because it’s the most life-affirming thing I know how to do.

parisbeef

Starting this Wednesday, 52 Tiger will be doing a month-long series on traveling with your iPhone. I cover everything, including:

  1. Pre-trip planning
  2. Traveling to your destination
  3. Enjoying your visit
  4. Managing the return trip
  5. Preserving your memories

It’s going to be great  and I’m excited about it. I’ve managed everything from a week in Paris to a Sunday drive with my iPhone. You can, too.

So pack your bag, grab your iPhone and get out there. The world is waiting.

This article is part of a series on traveling with your iPhone. You’ll find the other articles here.