iOS Apps for the Traveling Engineer

My iPad Mini has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Not only has it been great for keeping in touch with family and friends using Facebook, Skype and iMessage for example, but it has been indispensable for work, especially with allowing me to use Wi-Fi to log into my workstation remotely in places like Myanmar, where I was often out at a bar or restaurant where I didn’t want to be carrying around a heavy laptop or take a taxi back to the hotel just to push a button. There are some apps in particular that I find myself coming back to again and again (other than Grindr), and if you find yourself traveling the world with work, I recommend giving them a look:

Skyscanner

Company travel policy has changed recently, with my flights being booked for me, but in practice I’m finding that I get asked to look up the flights anyway. Skyscanner gives a good overview of what is available, at what price – information which can be useful when negotiating your travel plans to better suit you. Usually I request to minimise the number of transfers I have, and try to ensure they are international connections, especially with flying in and out of India recently. Worth a look, even if it’s just to give you something to work with initially.

A selection of various apps I'l use while traveling - some more than others

A selection of various apps I’l use while traveling – some more than others

Agoda

As above, while hotels should be booked for me, often I get asked to look into the options. Personally I find Agoda has the best deals, for the price range I’m looking for (~£50-60/night), especially if it is only for a few days I will be staying somewhere. Longer term rates you can also negotiate when you get to the hotel (or go elsewhere if you don’t like the hotel after a few days). Ultimately you want a hotels app giving you accurate information regarding location (important), price and facilities (for the normal price I pay, I expect fast, reliable internet and a decent breakfast to be included for example). Give a few a try and see which hotels app works best for you.

QuickDic Offline Dictionary (LINK)

As great as Google Translate is for getting a quick (albeit rough) translation of something, when you are trying to minimise roaming charges, have no access to Wi-Fi or reception, or need more advanced language resources than a tourist phrasebook can give, a good dictionary is what you need. QuickDic has a wealth of downloadable translation dictionaries (English-Ancient Greek anyone?), which are faster and less bulky than the equivalent in paper. Definitely check QuickDic out, especially if you are one for learning the local language.

CityMaps2Go Pro

As with Google Translate, GoogleMaps is pretty useless if you are roaming, on the go and have no access to Wi-Fi. Waegook Tom recommended this one to me and I can definitely agree with him: CityMaps2Go is a must-have. You simply download the desired maps beforehand and leave the rest to your iDevice. I’ve successfully navigated my way around Taipei, Hong Kong and London using this app, and downloading it is a no brainer.

Scientific Calculator

If you’re working in a technical field, don’t lug about a calculator in your luggage – download an app instead. I tried few different ones until I found an interface I was happy with.

Stupid people with iPads

I used to judge people like this… I still do – iPad Mini is at least marginally more discrete.

Convert Free (Unit and Currency Conversion)

America, WHY AREN’T YOU USING METRIC ALREADY?! Forget trying to remember complicated unit conversion factors (Fahrenheit to Celsius, anyone?); this isn’t a closed-book university examination. In the real world scientists and engineers look things up all the time. Convert free is really handy generally, but what makes it ideal for the traveling engineer is that it also does offline currency conversion for a rough idea of how much something costs in your home currency (exchange rates can be updated and bookmarked as needed).

Banking App

The bank I use has a good app that lets me manage my accounts, pay my credit card bills, make transfer payments and most importantly find the nearest ATM I can use. What’s more, all the phone numbers I’ll need to get in contact with the bank are available, so when my card invariably gets blocked/swallowed by an ATM, I know exactly who to call. I’m happy with the level of security my bank offers, but if you have any questions, ask at your local branch and do some reading up online.

SketchPad

You find yourself out on an industrial site, and you suddenly find you need to explain something to someone and it seems they won’t understand unless you draw it for them to see. Except your pen is clogged up with dust, or your paper has just blown away in the wind, or something of that irk. What do you do? 9 times out of 10 I’m carrying my iPad while at work, so I’ll usually use a doodling program such as SketchPad instead of fiddling about with scrappy bits of paper and pens than run out of ink at the wrong moment.

SmartAlarm

After reading some good reviews, I downloaded SmartAlarm when I first moved to India, when I was getting used to a new time zone and ridiculously early mornings compared to what I was used to. SmartAlarm can be set to record your sleep movements and breathing, and from these works out which phase of sleep you are in, then will gently wake you up just ahead of your desired alarm time, when you enter the correct part of the sleep cycle to be woken up. More often than not I woke up refreshed and ready for the day, without racing out of bed at the last minute and missing my bus to work.

Essential travel apps

Who wouldn’t love such a postcard coming through their door?

TouchNote

I LOVE TouchNote! I’ve always been one to write postcards home, ever since I found myself working at a mine in northern Mongolia. When I worked in Burma, I found I didn’t have as much time as I’d like to go postcard shopping, let alone finding the post office during opening hours, so I looked for an app that would do all the legwork for me. Hello TouchNote! You can make postcards or greeting cards using images from your camera, iPad albums or Facebook account, type the message, write your signature and import address from your contacts. You can even use your Facebook profile pic as the “stamp” and add your location as a map. The postage is also really quick and at a reasonable price when you consider the price of a postcard at a tourist trap and the cost of international postage. How much do I love TouchNote? Enough for me to send roughly 10 postcards a month over the space of 6 months, making me one of their biggest users last year (they sent a really nice thank you email).

So those are my essential iOS apps that any engineer – or anyone – doing a lot of traveling for work should consider. Do you agree with any of the apps on this list? Perhaps you have discovered others – if so please share! Any questions about any of the apps, give me a shout in the comments below.

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4 responses to “iOS Apps for the Traveling Engineer

  1. That’s a good list. Some of the other apps I like are:

    Notability. It’s a great note taking app. I used it a lot for school but it’s also great for work, conferences and seminars.

    Lounge buddy. Helps you find airport lounges throughout the world and gives the entry requirement info.

    Instagram: I’m an IG fanatic but it’s also great in countries such as China (and now Turkey) that block internet access to websites such as Facebook and Twitter. IG still works.

  2. I love Worldmate – as soon as flight confirmation/ hotel reservations etc are confirmed just forward the emails on and it updates the app – alerts you if there are price drops and allows you to check in online or cancel reservations etc

    Mainly though I use it to have instant access to an itinerary, very useful for quickly finding out what time/date/airport I’m getting on the next air asia flight…

    Also good for reminding me what I’ve haven’t booked and you can also share the schedule with others which keeps my mum pleased/amused

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