The iPhone Traveler Pt. 10: Shoot and edit vacation video with an iPhone


I use Apple’s own camera app, simply called Camera, for shooting video with my iPhone. It does everything I want and is easily accessible from the iPhone’s lock screen (via iOS 5.x). Here’s what I love about shooting video with Camera.

First, it shoots HD video (720p on the iPhone 4, 1080p on the iPhone 4S and 5). Image stabilization goes a long way towards reducing the shakiness of hand-held shots and cropping lets me to perform minor edits before sharing with iMovie on my Mac or iPhone. To shoot some video with the Camera app, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Camera to launch it.
  2. Move the slider in the lower right-hand corner to select video (slide it to the right).
  3. The “shutter button” in the center acquires a red status indicator light. Frame your shot and tap the shutter button to begin recording video.
  4. The red button blinks during recording and a time stamp appears in the upper right-hand corner.
  5. When you’re finished, tap the shutter button again. The red light stops blinking and the video file “jumps” into the camera roll.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind while shooting video with your iPhone. First, It’s almost always better to shoot in landscape orientation (iPhone on its side) than portrait. The main reason is the aspect ratio will look much better on your TV, as you’ll be able to avoid large “black bars” on either side of your video.

You can record video with either the forward-facing camera or the rear-facing camera. You cannot switch while you’re shooting, so make your choice before you begin. Also, there’s no way to zoom in or out while recording, so frame the shot you want first.

Apple has added a nice feature by letting you use the volume up button as the shutter button. Hold your camera on the landscape orientation so that the volume buttons are on top. Tap the volume up button to begin recording (it resembles a “+”) and again to stop. This is feels much more natural than reaching for the software shutter button on your iPhone’s screen. Lastly, you can view your video quickly by simply swiping to the right. The Camera app will slide away and you’ll go right to the camera roll. That’s much easier than exiting Camera and tapping Photos.

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iPhone Traveler Pt. 9 – Navigate with maps

mapsontheroadApple’s iPhone ships with Maps, a home-grown mapping application that you can use to find driving directions, public bus routes and walking directions for when you’re on foot.

A quick note.

The public has not been satisfied with the performance of Apple’s Maps, and in September, 2012, the company issued a public apology for the performance of its app.

Understand that the mapping application that ships with your iPhone, Maps, may not be the best solution for you. Fortunately, there are several fine alternatives in the App Store, many of which can be found by searching for the term “navigation” or “maps.”

Today, I’ll explain how to use Apple’s Maps app as well as an alternative that I trust. Let’s begin with Maps.

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iPhone Traveler Pt. 8 – Tracking a flight

Earlier this month I wrote several posts about preparing to travel with your iPhone. Now, it’s time to hit the road. Now I’m going to look at using your iPhone while you’re en route. It’s a big topic, that this post starts it off with tracking a flight.

The iPhone is your pocket-sized, always-connected, tireless travel agent. With its small size, cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, Internet access and apps, it’s extremely handy for tracking flights. There are a tremendous number of flight tracking apps available for the iPhone. Be sure to check the App Store and search for “airline” or “flight.”

Flight apps are extremely convenient and useful. On several occasions, I’ve had my iPhone relay information faster than the airport itself. Delays, arrivals, and much else all show up on my iPhone. There’s no need to search out information, strain to hear every announcement, or speak with agent after agent. My absolute favorite flight-tracking app is Flight Update Pro ($9.99, universal), and it has been for years. Here’s how to track a flight with this fantastic little app.

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iPhone Traveler pt. 7: iPhone as clock, camera and navigator

The iPhone makes for a useful and reliable alarm clock, camera and navigation device. And you thought it was just for Twitter! Today I’ll describe apps and accessories to make your iPhone the ultimate travel alarm clock, point-and-shoot camera and in-car navigator. Unless you just enjoy folding those huge maps. Then you’re on your own.

iPhone As Alarm Clock

Your iPhone lets you create multiple repeating alarms, smart alarms that are aware of the day and more. Plus, your iPhone notices when you change time zones and adjusts itself accordingly. It’s super handy. Let’s get started.

Automatic Time Zone Detection

Before we create an alarm, let’s enable automatic time zone detection. Once turned on, your iPhone will “notice” where it is and adjust its clock accordingly. That way, you don’t have to do it manually (though, if you want to, that’s an option, too). Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap General, then Date and Time.
  3. Move the Set Automatically slider to the On position.

That’s it. Now your iPhone will adjust for time zone changes on its own.

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iPhone Traveler: International iPhone use Pt. 2

This week I’m looking at international iPhone use. There are several ways to use or avoid your iPhone while traveling outside your home country. Our goal is to have fun, benefit from having a phone but avoid outrages charges.

Today, I’m talking about data roaming. Data roaming refers to using the Internet, email and other similar data connections outside your carrier’s coverage. Essentially, you’re “roaming” outside of your coverage zone.

Roaming costs can be quite very high. Even the simple act of checking email once a day can be costly. It’s a good practice to disable data roaming while traveling internationally. Fortunately, your iPhone has it switched off by default.

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iPhone Traveler: International iPhone use Pt. 1

pdflagsizedTraveling internationally with your iPhone demands careful preparation. When you leave the country, you most likely will not be using the cellular data network that’s owned by your home carrier. Since you’re off your plan, you’ll possibly have to pay for each megabyte of data that your phone sends or receives individually. This can get extremely expensive very quickly. In fact, it’s very easy to generate a bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in a surprisingly short period of time. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid an outrageous bill.

I’ve gotten numerous requests for a post on using the iPhone internationally since I started this travel series. It’s a big topic that deserves special attention. So, I’m going to dedicate this entire week to using the iPhone internationally. I’ll share my own research, interviews with others who travel quite a bit and more. After a week, we’ll have a very nice resource on international iPhone use.

To get us started, here are a few paragraphs from my TUAW colleague and newspaper designer for The Patriot-News in near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Megan Lavey-Heaton. Megan shared some of her experiences and practices. Enjoy, and keep watching the site for hands-on information.

“I’ve taken my iPhone out of the country to Canada and the United Kingdom. Traveling to Canada is just like being in the U.S. – so much so that you really have to make sure you turn off your data at the border. There were some places of Ontario very close to the U.S. border that I was able to pick up an AT&T signal, but to make absolutely sure, I didn’t use my phone much until I was back on the U.S. side. If you are driving into Canada, make sure that you’ve downloaded any navigation maps needed before the service switches to international.

The United Kingdom was a different story. With the iPhone 4, it kept bouncing from service to service (usually O2 or Orange) and was spending a lot of time searching for the closest provider when I turned Airplane Mode off. That’s OK, because you want to stay away from using the local networks whenever possible. The moment I leave the country, the phone goes into Airplane Mode and for the most part stays there until I get back to the U.S.

The absolute biggest potential hit to your wallet will come from your data plan. When I was lost in Toronto a few years ago, I turned on data long enough to find where I needed to go from Maps, then turned the data back off. That 30 seconds of search and download added $18 to my bill. Stick to Wi-Fi, but it’s harder to find it for free than in the U.S. if you don’t live there. For free Wi-Fi in the UK, the best places to get it are actually American food chains: Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King. In Canada, I found more free Wi-Fi spots. AT&T and Verizon have international data plans that you can add to and then remove from your plan if you want a safety net, but I’ve never used them.

The second biggest financial hit, ironically, comes from text messages. My husband texted me a few times to pin down my location in a Liverpool museum, and that added on several dollars to the following month’s bill. Set up iMessages before you go, and make sure you have it so that does not send via text message if it fails. That way, if you do need to text someone with an iPhone running iOS 5, it’ll default to Wi-Fi and not hit your text or data plans.

Traveling with an iPhone out of the country is great as long as you keep a vigilant eye on the costs. Keep the phone in Airplane Mode whenever possible, make sure everything you need is pre-loaded. Skip the iOS and app updates until you get home, because you don’t want to risk accidentally doing something to your phone that can’t be fixed.”

Comments are open, so feel free to share your international travel experiences.

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

iPhone Traveler Pt. 5: Choosing the right iPhone case


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


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


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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