Smooth road a head

A plethora of apps takes the hassle out of travelling

Travelling overseas or upcountry used to be pretty cumbersome as people had to bring a guidebook, map, camera and even a GPS device. But now you have a smartphone with some or all of these apps, your journey experience will become much more convenient.

My Tracks uses the GPS sensor in your device to record geographic and velocity statistics.

Google Now gets you just the right information at just the right time. It's useful for everyday life, but especially when travelling because the app can offer you information about your new surroundings. The app shows events happening around you, suggesting websites for you to explore as you research things to do, or even nearby photo spots to visits. It also features currency conversion, translations and flight status.

The app combines location data with calendar entries, emails taken from the phone or tablet's GPS unit, and posts on social networks, to predict what a user will do next, then works out what help they need and offers it without being asked. It will then present the user with Cards designed to offer support or help it thinks they need.

For example, if a calendar on the phone contains a note on travelling, Google Now will create a reminder and then check to see whether the user is en route to the place and give directions, or work out how long it will take them to get there based on the current traffic situation.

The app will show the weather at the destination as well as restaurants and places of interest nearby.

To explore new places, discover local favourites and navigate your world, let the easy-to-use Google Maps to do it for you.

According to Nabil Naghdy, product manager for Google Maps, the new mapping experience on both Android and iOS gives users the accuracy of Google Maps in a simple mobile interface that makes finding the places important to them faster and easier. The app features a cleaner design that shows more of a map on screen so users can quickly pinpoint the places they need and what's important.

In everyday life, Google Now gets you just the right information at just the right time.

See landmarks, parks, storefronts in more than 50 countries with 360-degree street-level images.

Tap the circular arrow on the bottom left of a Street View image, and your device becomes a virtual window into that place. Move your device around to explore in Look Around mode.

"One highlight feature of Google Maps is Street View, for example the Taipei 101 building, basically ones can see 360-degree photos along the road and anything, such as Fox Cafe, we can have a look and actually see what Fox Cafe looks like in front," said Naghdy. Another feature is Google Business Photo. It's like Street View, but inside the restaurants, or inside the business, so users can get indoor views of malls, shops and restaurants to scope out their dinner location.

Besides the traffic information and alternative routes, users can get the weather forecast every morning. Google Maps shows you where you are and gets you to where you want to go. You can get free, voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, whether driving, walking or taking public transport, see estimated time to your destination based on live traffic information.

You can star places you go to frequently, or tap into recent searches, whether on desktop or mobile, making it easier to get directions or navigation no matter where you want to go.

Communicating problems on your travels will be no longer be a trouble. The Google Translate app allows you and the person you're talking with to speak into the app, write or even take a picture to input the language you want translated. If you were ever stumped about what to order at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo, fear no more: just take a photo of the menu item, brush your finger over the bit you want translated, and tuck in. Translation can be done offline while travelling. You can save your translations and access them from any device.

Even though Facebook is still dominant, Google+ is fighting to gain ground. The social network Google+ mobile app enables users to automatically upload photos and videos as they take them using Auto Backup. With Auto Backup, photos and videos taken with your smartphone are automatically uploaded to a private album on Google+. You can easily share them later from your phone or the web.

My Tracks is a GPS-tracking app that records your path, speed, distance and elevation while you walk, run, bike, or do anything else outdoors. While recording, you can view your data live, annotate your path and hear periodic voice announcements of your progress. The app enables you to sync and share your tracks via Google Drive. You can share tracks with friends, see the tracks your friends have shared with you, or make tracks public.

Google Keep, the app available on Android and iOS, enables users to take notes and photos, create lists and make voice recordings. Once you've captured your ideas, you can colour-code them or create a simple checklist to organise tasks. You can also sync across all your devices so you never have to write notes twice.

The cloud service Google Drive allows users to store, create and work together on files like spreadsheets, documents, presentations, drawings and photos. It also comes with up to 15GB free storage.

Chrome is a fast, simple and secure web browser that loads web pages in a snap and is available on your desktop, tablet and phone. Once you've signed in, you have access to all your Google accounts, like Gmail, Maps or YouTube across all your devices. It will also automatically sync all your open tabs and bookmarks so you can pick up where you left off on any device.

Google Hangouts becomes dependable when you need to connect with someone out of town. Hangouts are like real-life conversations. Users can show photos and share how they are feeling with Emoji. Users can start a Hangout right from Gmail and up to 10 people can join from their computer, tablet or phone.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer