Traveling to to a far away land or even to an unfamiliar neighbouring town is not as difficult or daunting as it used to be. With a wealth of information available online and at your fingertips in the form of apps for smartphones and tablets traveling is now a less chaotic affair if you use the tools available. Being an Android phone user I used quite a few apps via Wi-fi on my HTC Legend while in Japan but many of these apps are also available for other platforms such as iOS, Blackberry and tablets. The following apps helped greatly while I was in Japan and could be useful to other travelers, bloggers and technophiles even if Japan is not your distination
Apart from my connection between New York and Jamaica, my other flights were on American Airlines or their Oneworld affiliate JAL. A few months before booking my flights I would constantly check the AA website and note how the cost of tickets to Japan changed. I discovered their Android app and installed it when I booked my flight and loved it. Using the powerful app I could get all my flight information, manage my AAdvantage miles, check the status of flights and even play Suduko while waiting in airport cues.
Definately one of my most used apps while in Japan, Evernote was the repository for my every idea, thought and experience while trekking through Japan. From simple clue words and names of places I didn’t want to forget to entire journal entries I would expound on later. Posts like Lost and Found in Japan – Buddha Edition, My Romantic experience with the Narita Express and many others yet to be published all started from jumbled jibberish in Evernote.
A service that scared the crap out of me when I first found my house on it many years ago, Google maps is not as clunky or slow as it was in its web based days and now everyone can literally carry the world in their pockets. The Google Maps android app allowed me plot exploration routes, find the closest train stations or find my myself as little GPS spec on the map no matter where in Japan I was.
Along with my Japan Mobile Rental Wi-fi router and Google maps the Hyperdia train schedule app was like like a safety net + appkit for when I’d inevitably get lost or have trouble finding just what I was looking for. I was hardly ever on my own for too long but the few times stepped out alone to face the Japan fronteir without assistance Hyperdia showed me which trains to take on which platform at what time.
Twitter seems to have come unto the scene only recently but from looking at my stats I see I have been using the service for over 4 years. Like so many others, my microblogging addiction cannot be stopped and while it Japan I spat out tweets using the much improved official Twitter app as a way to share what I was doing and seeing in Japan. My Gundam Cafe and Akihabara adventures being some of the most well received by my followers. @Jamaipanese
Cloud storage is no longer the future, it is now the present and if you aren’t using it you are living in the stone ages. Like Evernote but for my music files, important documents and other files I wanted to keep safe like the very best of the hundreds of photos I was snapping and videos I was recording.
Part of the reason for my blogs growth can be traced back to my conversion to WordPress. I am raving fan of the blogging platform and although it’s Android app could use a nicer looking GUI I used it while it Japan to make edits to published posts, manage comments on the go and troubleshoot some minor problems.
I still don’t think location based services like Foursquare can be successful unless there are incentives for me to “Check-in” when I am out and about. I used Foursquare to help remember the places I had been on whichever day and to to calculate actual transit times after the fact. Weird use right? So if you know an app that does it effectively drop me a message with the link.
Another of my favourite apps during the long flights to Japan and train rides. Kanji Quick is light-weight, without much frills and does exactly what I want in a simple flashcard app that helps my forgetful mind remember kanji as I study in short bursts without having to use something complicated and hard to use.
There is a reason why it’s the biggest social network at the moment. I used Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family as well as using it as an outlet to share quick updates and photos to my friends, most of whom aren’t even on Twitter. My phone quickly filled up with over 200 photos all shared on Facebook as I trekked through Japan.