Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Favorite Things: Tech Edition - Apps

In this edition of Favorite Things I'm going to share my favorite phone apps* (many of which are regular old Internet sites as well).  However, I’m not going to bother with the common ones like Facebook, Google Reader, Instagram, Pandora, or even games.  I’m going to focus on apps you may not have heard of or have heard of but didn't know what they were for or why they might benefit you.  Okay.  Ready?  Here we go. 
Trip It 

This is a website as well, but the mobile site is nice to have when you are on the go, like in an airport.  Basically, it’s a storage place for all of your travel plans.  When you purchase airline tickets you can have the airline e-mail TripIt and all the flight information (times, flight numbers, confirmation numbers) will get stored in your TripIt account.  You can also add hotel and rental car information.  It puts all of the confirmation numbers and such for a trip into one place, making it a handy tool for accessing the information (rather than having 15 separate e-mails in your inbox).  The other nice feature is that you can connect your travel information with other TripIt users if you so choose so that your travel info is in their account.  My husband and I use this when we take trips without the other.  This way, he has access to my flight numbers and times and then knows when to pick me up from the airport.  Gone are the days of him asking me to e-mail him my itinerary for the tenth time…or me wondering if I sent him one in the first place!  The mobile app is extremely convenient because you no longer have to carry around hard copies of confirmation numbers with you (though, I still do because you never know when your phone is going to die!). 

I sometimes use this app when I am out running.  Using the GPS on your phone it will track your route and calculate distance, time, and pace.  You can also manually log routes on the website.  The GPS is a little unpredictable (possibly the fault of my phone not the app).  Sometimes it tracks me way off course.  But it’s nice to get a general idea of how far I ran.  I don’t use this all the time since I typically run the same route and know how long it is and don’t usually run to beat times, it’s just fun for those days when you feel like it.  I believe there is a MapMyRide version as well for biking, but I don’t see why you can’t use one for both. 

This is another travel app.  I’ve used this when I have layovers in unfamiliar airports.  You enter the airport and the concourse you are on and you can find out what stores and restaurants are nearby.  So, if you have a short layover but want to grab something to eat, you can open the app while you’re waiting to deplane and find out what your food choices are before you even get inside the airport.  Then you can decide right then where you want to eat, instead of opting for your first sighting only to find that there was something better if you had just kept walking!

I realize I like a lot of travel related apps!  That’s probably because when I travel I don’t have access to a computer but I always have my phone.  The TripAdvisor app is nice to have if you want to look up reviews to restaurants or tour providers when you are out of town or on the go and don't have a computer with you to access the website. 
I used this app (and website) last year when I wanted to drop a few pounds before having to bare myself in a two piece swimsuit on our trip to Belize (all my favorite apps really DO relate to travel, don’t they?).  You set up your account with your current weight and weight loss goals and it spits out a daily calorie number for you to target depending on how many pounds you want to lose per week and how active you are naturally (Are you a waitress or someone who sits at a desk all day?).  Throughout the day you add any foods you ate to the log and it will track the calories for you.  The database of foods is extensive and includes many restaurant meals.  You can also scan the bar code of an item to find it.  You can also track your exercise and it will add the calories you gained from exercise to your total for the day.  I found this easy as I was able to add to my list whenever/wherever I wanted.  I didn’t have to wait until I had access to a computer or write it down on a piece of paper.  I wasn’t all gung-ho about it and ‘took off’ on weekends and special events, but it helped me be more aware of what I was eating.  The best part?  I lost about 12 pounds in four months!  Of course, for me, the best motivation to lose weight is fear of swimsuit season.  As soon as my trip was over I stopped logging and gained a few pounds back, but it’s easy to start up again…no joining fee!

Have you ever heard a song on the radio or at a sporting event and wondered what the name of the song/artist was so that you could go home and download it?  If so, this is an app you'll want to have.  Just turn it on and click ‘tap here’.  The little men inside your phone will listen to the song and tell you the name and artist!  It even stores your last few searches so that you will remember it when you get home.  There have only been a few occasions where it was not able to identify the song and most of those are due to too much background noise (like at a sporting event with cheering).

This is basically a folder that is networked between your phone and your PC/tablet.  You have to install it on both devices and sync them.  Then, you can easily share pictures, music and other files between your phone and PC.  Got an old picture from a few years ago that you’d like to use as your phone wallpaper?  Just plop the file in the DropBox folder on your PC.  Turn on your phone and open the DropBox folder and, viola!  The picture is now accessible on your phone.

That completes the tech edition of Favorite Things.  Please don't expect many more technical related posts.  This is as techie as this non-techie girl gets! 

*I have an Android phone.  I do not know if all of these apps are available for other types of phones/tablets, but I would guess that most are.

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