App of the Week: Apps That Helped on My Vacation...and a Few That Didn't

Categories: Tech

Photo by Jeff Balke
Nevermore, Instagram. Nevermore.
The Problematic

Google Maps
The accuracy of the Google Maps app and the ability to simply type in the name of a store or restaurant as opposed to an address makes it a must-have for any road trip. But it has some issues. For one, tapping the screen zooms in, which is easy, but getting back to a wider view is a pain, particularly when trying to quickly see where you are. Additionally, the routes it chooses are odd at best. It did navigate very accurately a route, but what it chose was a bizarre and terrifying series of tiny roads teetering on the edges of 500-foot drops without warning.

I have raved about this app and it is still my favorite source of weather on the phone, but its inability to quickly adjust to a new location is frustrating. Once it hones in on where you are, all is well, but getting it to do so is a more complicated process than should be necessary.

I had high hopes for this app and, in some instances, it was very helpful. The problem is in its limited range. Off the interstate, it is nearly worthless. On the interstate, it's invaluable. I hope the app grows to include more roads over time. It would be substantially more versatile if it did.

I love the funky picture-taking app, but its connectivity requirements are frustrating. Without 3G, it is nearly impossible to get a photo to load. Even with it, there are times when Instagram fails. That wouldn't be an issue if it would go ahead and save the photo as is in the iPhone's memory, but that isn't the case. So, be REALLY careful not to delete the image from Instagram and think you can start over later. You can't. You just have to leave it and wait for a better signal.

The Basically Worthless

Even with a decent signal, Facebook failed to load my timeline, had all sorts of errors and glitches and gagged over and over. Someone at Facebook or a third party really needs to do something about improving access to the biggest social network on the planet via a cellular network.

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My Voice Nation Help

Jeff -- Try Chefs Feed, and amazing set of recommendations in about 12 cities, made by top-notch chefs in the town.  They don't recommend a whole restaurant, but instead a specific single dish!  Of course you can sort by restaurant and see how many recs a single restaurant gets, and sometimes the same dish (foie gras stuffed pigs foot in Philly) gets 3,4,5 recs.  Also a nice location feature can find you a cool dish within 0.1  miles, 0.5 miles, etc.  It sent me to great places in Seattle, and the Austin recs seem to be right on point.  Houston is supposed to be coming soon, with (I think) people like Chris Shepherd and Bryan Caswell recommending.

MadMac topcommenter

Thanks on the tip-side, Jeff. I'm adding those (good) aps to my phone.


Oy vey.  I got around the world with a 7 year old used Fodor's travel guide.  While I love the InnerWeb, these apps for gimp crutches.

MadMac topcommenter

Yeah? @Craigley As a kid I "camped" with a tarp, matches, knife, .22 rifle and skittish/non-gun broke horse. I've also wrestled with a road atlas at dark-thirty in the morning while looking for a restroom for the Mrs while fighting a nicotine/caffeine fit. Can doesn't mean should or even want to, EVER again.


 @Craigley I didn't NEED them. I've been all over the place LONG before the smartphone -- hell, even the CELL PHONE -- existed. But, I don't ignore technology that might help me. I'm sure world travelers 100 years ago would have called your Fodor's guide books for gimp crutches as well. :)


 @Jeff  @Craigley I work in IT - We grew eCommerce from the group up at Compaq in the late 80s.   Automating business processes is the way of my world.  But these "apps" send far to much personal data and many are essetnially marketing material. 

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