Walking directions with the Apple Watch is a killer feature

IMG_1423It’s difficult to navigate an unfamiliar city on foot. You don’t want to look like a tourist (or a mark), so you pull out the internet-connected computer in your pocket, enter an address and start to follow along. It’s a logical move, but not ideal for several reasons:

  1. It’s very distracting. Staring at an iPhone while navigating a crowded sidewalk means you might bump into people, trash bins, hot dog carts…who knows what.
  2. Your more susceptible to pick-pockets and other n’er-do-wells. Nothing says “I’m a tourist!” quite like staring at a map while in Times Square, digital or not.
  3. Spoken directions from the phone can be hard to hear and annoying to others.

Conversely, the Apple Watch excels at delivering walking directions. It’s safer and more convenient than relying on an iPhone. Here’s how to get walking directions with Apple Watch.

Getting directions on Apple Watch

The first step, of course, is to get your destination’s address onto the Apple Watch. There are several ways to do this, and the fastest are these:

  1. Ask Siri for directions. The virtual personal assistant will automatically open Apple Maps with the directions ready to go.
  2. Start on Apple Maps on your iPhone. The app will automatically sync with Apple Watch. After you’ve entered the information on the iPhone app, open the watch app to view the directions.

Following a route

Once you’re ready to get moving, just tap Start. The Watch will guide you along, via clever use of Apple’s Taptic Engine:

  • A series of 12 taps means turn right at the next intersection.
  • Three pairs of two taps mean turn left.
  • A steady vibration means you’re at the last direction change.
  • A more urgent vibration (which I call “the freakout”) indicates your arrival at your destination.

Imagine walking from, say, the train station to a hotel in a city you aren’t familiar with. You’ve got a bag in your hand and a million things on your mind, like check-in, getting settled and whatever brought you there in the first place. Now you can walk with your eyes front and your head up. Perhaps you’ll even note a few landmarks along the way, to make the return stroll easier.

It’s a feature I love to use. Try it yourself.

FAA to loosen restrictions on in-flight electronics


Good news, everyone! The FAA is about to let you use your doo-dad in the plane more often. Specifically, the Wall Street Journal reports, you’ll be able to use your device while the plane is taxing, taking off, landing and climbing to/descending from 10,000 feet. Currently, the use of electronics is not permitted during those maneuvers 1.

A lot of you think that the FAA has enforced periodic electronics lock-downs to force you to watch the safety information or just because it can. That’s really not true. As I reported a few weeks ago, there are some old planes in operation, and many of those use old equipment that can be affected by radio signals. Most planes run more modern equipment but many don’t. Rather than forcing the passengers and crew to make that determination on every flight, the FAA played it safe and made a blanket rule for all aircraft. A United Airlines pilot explains:

“Some older aircraft do have extremely old school radios. Some do not even have GPS. So the FAA has decided two things:

  1. Since it is too contradictory for passengers and flight attendants to discriminate what aircraft they are on, and what should be the corresponding announcement, the same one is used for all aircraft.

  2. The FAA can not take time to test every new device as it’s released. In fact, such testing falls to near the bottom of its priority/to-do list.”

Now you know.

Photo Credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend] via Compfight cc

  1. Note that phone calls will still be verboten during those times.

Is Airbnb really cheaper than a hotel?

A popular reason for using Airbnb is that it’s a better deal than a hotel. But is it? Priceonomics has put together an interesting map that compares average Airbnb rates to hotel room equivalents in every major US city. The results?

“We discovered that Airbnb apartment rentals cost 21.2% less than staying at a hotel. And if you’re on a budget, you can save 49.5% if you decide to stay in a private room at a host’s house instead of staying in a hotel.”

There’s a lot more to this interesting study, which you can read here.

EatWith offers travelers authentic, home cooked meals


EatWith is like Airbnb for food, and that’s freaking awesome.

For around US$35 – $50 per head, travelers can book dinner in the kitchen of a native who’s looking to meet new people and do the cooking to boot. You’ll get regional dishes that typically aren’t available in restaurants, plus tips that aren’t found in guide books and maybe even make a friend.

Food is such a pronounced and vital part of a culture, and eating with someone is such an intimate, social act, that I’m blown away by how ingenious this is. I’ve often said that I want to know a culture’s real cuisine, as in, what does someone cook for their family on a random Tuesday night? Here’s a chance to get the true answer. The real deal.

Flying for iPhone looks like a great flight app

Flying – an iPhone app for all your air travel from Flying on Vimeo.

Flying for iPhone, still in public beta, wants to be on my iPhone so badly I can hear it whispering, “Install meeeee.” This seriously good-looking app shares information you’d expect like departure and arrival times, terminal and gate info (both sides) and weather. It’s also a bit playful, presenting your route data in a fun, novel way (see the video above).

The social aspect looks great, and reminds me of the bits of Gowalla that I enjoyed so much. You can receive “stamps” for achievements and share/compete with your traveling friends. For example, “You crossed the Atlantic Ocean!” Who among your buddies has racked up the most miles?

I don’t have any flights planned in the immediate future (I *might* go to Florida in a few weeks), but I’ll try out Flying as soon as I do. It looks great.