Column

Another Apps Article?

Since I seem to be the only tech author who hasn’t yet shared his list of “must-have” SmartPhone apps for the lawyer on the go, I thought maybe I’d go ahead and give you mine. Of course, you’ve seen these plenty of times so I’ll try to focus on the ones that might be a little less obvious. You’ve been told a million times about QuickOffice, Evernote and Instagram (and if not, you might want to check those out too).

The apps I’m going to talk about are for Android, but unless I note otherwise there is also a version of each of them for iOS and, occasionally, for Windows Phone 7.5 also.

Waze

I’m a relatively recent convert to Waze. Waze has a very capable GPS Navigation app that gives you turn by turn directions. Big deal – Google Maps already does that, you say? Yes, but Waze crowdsources traffic information. When you drive down the street with Waze running you’re telling Waze (and other “Wazers”) what the current driving speed on that street is. There are also options to report accidents, hazards…even police speed traps. Waze will use that information to help calculate the fastest route to your destination and warn you of upcoming traffic conditions.

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Google incorporates the same data into its systems but when you think about, it’s brilliant. Chances are good that most cars (especially in urban areas) driving down a road have a phone in them. Just by tracking how quickly those phones move along the roadway you can get a pretty good picture of traffic conditions.

Of course, Waze, like any social app, requires a certain network effect to be valuable. If there’s only one “Wazer” in your area then you’re not going to get much traffic information. On the other hand, if hundreds of your neighbors all choose to participate then you’ll develop a rich and active information community.

Free. Available for iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Gas Buddy

I drive a LOT and even though I drive a Hyrbid it means that I visit gas stations on a fairly regular basis – often in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Gas Buddy is a free app that lets you see what the current prices are at nearby gas stations. Don’t get stuck paying $3.89 a gallon for gas when there’s a station two blocks away selling the same grade for $3.60. Running on fumes and just want to find ANY station at any price? Gas Buddy can find the nearest station for you too.

Gas Buddy works by encouraging its users to report prices. So the next time you fill up, while you’re waiting, fire up Gas Buddy and tell it what the current prices are at that station.

Free. Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone

FlightBoard

Are you a frequent flier who wishes they didn’t have to search out the airport status boards to find out what gate your flight is leaving from or at what time? Now you can have the airport status board in your pocket. FlightBoard has the flight status information at over 4,000 airports worldwide. You can look up your upcoming flight, see if it’s on-time and find out what gate it’s at.

When I’m arriving at an airport where I’m connecting to another flight I’ll often fire up FlightBoard (after we land and portable electronic devices are allowed, of course) while we’re taxiing to the gate and look up the gate for my next flight. By the time the heavyset fellow in the row in front of me has finished wrestling his 40 pound roll-aboard bag out of the overhead bin I already know exactly what gate I need to go to next. I even know if the flight is on-time or delayed. No more scurrying about the airport like a lost kitten looking for the status boards.

FlightBoard is from the FlightAware folks and I encourage you to also check out their flight tracking app that lets you get specific info about a particular flight. Very handy if you’re heading to the airport to pick up a loved one and want to know how far out their flight is.

One Word of caution – I’ve seen the occasion comments from folks that FlightBoard isn’t always 100% accurate. I’ve never had a problem with it, but it’s possible that they might be off occasionally…so if you happen to walk past an airport status board it wouldn’t hurt to glance up and confirm what FlightBoard told you.

Free. Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and even Symbian.

GateGuru

Now that you know what gate your next flight is at wouldn’t it be nice to know what restaurants are in the same terminal or if there’s a bathroom on the way? Power up GateGuru next (don’t worry, before that guy gets to his oversized roll-aboard the lady in row 11 will need a few minutes to get her kids up and moving) and check out the terminal. You can see what food or shopping options there are, locate services and even read reviews that might warn you off the Chicken Caesar salad at the sports bar or steer you to some unexpectedly good onion rings.

It doesn’t have every airport on the planet, but it seems to have all of the major ones. I can’t remember ever flying into an airport that wasn’t listed.

Free. Available for iOS or Android.

Summary

There are a LOT of apps out there to make your smartphone a little smarter. If you’re a traveler you should take advantage of some of these tools to make your trip smoother and more pleasant. And avoid the Chicken Caesar at the Sports Bar in Terminal B, by the way.

Comments

  1. Thought I’d download the flight apps…

    FYI, FlightBoard is not free for iPhone – it is $3.99