Back in the olden days, you know the ones . . . pre 2007 . . . we used mobile phones for making phone calls and even sending text messages which was pretty awesome when you consider that only 10 years before that mobile phones were still relatively new anyway.
But these days we are completely spoilt with our smart phones having a seemingly endless array of apps that do things for us we could barely dream of just a few years ago.
So with pretty much everyone having a smart phone in their pocket, I thought I’d take a look at some of the apps you can download that will help you make the most of your next road trip.
Maps have well and truly entered the digital age and Hema’s ‘Explorer’ app has added new layers of information and possibilities to what the humble printed map could offer.
The Explorer app comes with over 40,000 points of interest and both road and topo maps included and you can download other more specific maps as you need them and pay for them individually from the app stores.
The app uses your phone or tablets GPS functionality to enable you to track your progress but it’s worth digging deeper to understand what limitations there may be when you are out of mobile phone range as not all features will work offline.
The app also takes advantage of your devices camera and known location to enable you to take photos and record your routes to look back on later. You can even upload them to the ‘Hema Cloud’.
This video below by Hema provides a good overview of what the app can do and you can find out more on the Hema website here
MudMap is similar to Hema’s Explorer but uses a different set of maps and encourages the road tripper community to help build the content into the Mudmap system using the Open Street Map open source mapping project http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=5/-26.647/133.945
The app comes with built in maps but you can also buy a wide range of maps from their Map Store on their website plus you can load maps from other suppliers as well (GeoTiff, ECW and most OziExplorer map formats)
Find our more on the MudMap website here:
This video explains more about how the MudMap apps work
CAUTION: As good as digital maps may be, I would always have printed maps as a backup. Electronic gadgets get flat batteries and don’t work well after being submerged, dropped or exposed to other environmental hazards you tend to encounter on outback adventures.
Wikicamps uses crowd sourcing to have users of the app upload and update the information that all other users use. It’s a database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, dump points and other points of interest.
The app uses your current location to show you all of the nearby points of interest from nearest to furthest.
You can also download the map and state by state user data and use it offline when you’re out of wifi or 3g/4g range.
The video below gives a good overview of how Wikicamps works.
Fuel Map Australia
Another product by the folks at WikiCamps is Fuel Map Australia which is a crowdsourced fuel station & fuel price finder.
With the app you can look for fuel stations nearby to your currently location or use the map to zoom into a location you’re heading to to see what is available.
Probably the best feature though is the crowdsourced fuel price guide. Users can update fuel prices themselves for those following and you can see how long ago the price was last updated.
This is very useful for remoter areas where prices can vary significantly and will help you to make decisions about how much fuel to buy and where.
Additional info: Do you need a long range fuel tank?
Finally, the app gives you the ability to record your fuel purchases so you can see over time what sort of mileage your car is getting.
About the same time as smart phones were being invented, so was Facebook and it’s rise has been just meteoric.
And it’s not hard to see why.
Facebook has succeeded so spectacularly because it does a really good job of connecting people and enabling them to share their lives and the things they discover with the people that matter.
And for us road trippers, sharing the experience is half the fun.
So when it comes to ‘sharing your adventure’ with your friends and family then Facebook really is the way to go.
It’s free and it’s simple and they have so much momentum that they are here to stay, so investing the time in building your network of friends, family and things that you’re interested in won’t be time wasted.
Facebook Groups which is like a forum within Facebook is also a great way to research information about your road trip and connect with like minded people
Facebook messenger is a spinoff of the main Facebook app that as the name suggests, is designed for dedicated messaging.
You can communicate with the people you know in almost anyway you want to - text, voice and video directly and for free as long as you have wifi or a data connection.
All of your Facebook friends are there to connect with and you can create groups of people and have group chat conversations with all of them at once.
In my experience Messenger has not been as stable for voice and video as an app like Skype but given the speed in which Facebook moves, it will only be a matter of time.
Keep in mind that you’ll need cellular or wifi access to use Facebook and Facebook messenger which may not always be available when you are travelling.
iPhone 6 Built in camera app
They say the best camera is the one that’s in your pocket because it’s always better to get a shot of any quality than not get the shot at all. Just ask anyone who has taken a photo or video of a UFO . . they are ALWAYS taken with the crappiest possible camera by the worst photographer - never in glorious HD by a pro!!
Until fairly recently getting great shots has meant carrying a really good point and shoot camera or a DSLR.
These days however the quality of phone cameras like the iPhone 6 and other smart phones is so good it has replaced the need for a dedicated camera in many cases.
With features like Panorama, photo and video modes and slow motion built in to the one app you really have a lot of power in the device that you’re already carrying anyway.
Earlier this year I spent a week hiking through the mountains in the south island of New Zealand and the only camera I took was my iPhone 6 and a spare battery to top it up (which I didn’t need).
And I didn’t regret it.
Of course if this was a trip where filming or photography were the main goal then I would have lugged the gear with me like I did walking the Overland Track in Tassie for The Big Lap.
But have a look at the shots below and I think you’ll agree that these are great holiday snaps.
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard when it comes to photo editing and in fact so much so that the word ‘Photoshop’ has become a verb to describe the process of altering a photo one way or another.
So it makes sense that their iPhone & Android Apps would follow suit . . and they do.
The app can use your phones camera to take photos but it’s real power is in editing the images you’ve already taken.
You can easily fix many common issues like red eye, ‘pet eye’ which is like red eye on pets and you can straighten crooked photos as well.
Plus you can add a range of filters to change the colour and therefore mood of the pic, crop images, add borders, vignettes, sharpen, as well as change exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows.
Once you’re done you can save your new image to the camera roll or share it directly on Facebook, Instagram or others channels.
Photoshop Express is a simple but powerful app and pretty much all you will need for fixing and changing your photos at a basic level. It’s also available in phone and tablet versions and it’s free.
There are additional filters and looks you can buy within the app but I haven’t found the need for these yet.
Photoshop Express on the iPad . . . Thanks to our Dalmatian 'Buddy' for modelling for me
There are a lot of apps available on both iOS and Android devices and these are only 8 of them - however these are a good start.
Feel free to recommend other great road tripping apps in the comments below and when I have enough I'll do a follow up article to this one.