Don’t leave home without your smartphone.
Not just because you might have to make an emergency call while in transit. But consider this question: When is the last time you saw a pay phone?
I can’t remember, either.
In cities and towns, pay phones have been removed by phone companies because they weren’t being used and were expensive to maintain. In the U.S., there were more than 2.6 million pay phones in the mid-1990s, but currently, according to Randy Nichols of the American Public Communications Council, there are no more than 200,000 left, a 92 percent reduction.
OK, so it’s settled then. You’re taking your phone.
Now — what’s on your phone?
There are thousands of travel apps for smartphones, some great and some worthless. I constantly test new travel apps and updates of old ones. Each app must serve a useful purpose and fulfill it well. I look for stability and usability in each one.
Here are my top ten smartphone travel apps for 2016.
10. Honk (iOS – $0.99, not yet available for Android or Windows)
When driving in a city or town, you often have to pay for street parking and have a time limit. Honk helps ensure you won’t get a parking ticket. With a swipe of the app’s meter you can set your parking time limit, then press the map button to set your location in the app. When it’s time to return to your car, Honk will show you where your car’s located and give you directions to get back to it.
9. Google Translate (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
Google Translate is as amazing as ever. It can translate text from more than 80 languages. You can take a photo of text you wish to translate, type or even dictate it into the app. You can save translations for offline retrieval too.
8. GateGuru (iOS , Android, Windows – Free)
GateGuru is a personal airport assistant. It has maps of the terminals at most of the world’s major airports. It has lists of the restaurants and other services available in each terminal, as well as reviews. It will also tell you where in the airport stores and services are located.
7. Mobile Passport (iOS, Android – Free, not yet available for Windows)
Mobile Passport permits U.S. and Canadian citizens to shorten their wait time at passport control when entering the U.S. After installing the app you create a profile. Upon arrival in the U.S., you complete the “New Trip” section and wirelessly submit your customs declaration. You’ll receive an electronic receipt with a QR code. You can then skip the often long, regular passport lines and go to a special passport control officer with your passport and smartphone showing the QR code receipt. The app is currently usable at only six airports in the U.S.
6. AccuWeather (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
This is the best overall weather app I’ve found for smartphones. Its data is accurate, and its forecasts are as good as or better than from other weather apps. You can save your favorite locations for quick referrals.