Now that summer is officially in full swing, we thought we’d bring you the best apps for using while travelling this summer. We chose the categories below because they would be useful while on a road trip, waiting for a plane or in a hotel room. You can read, watch video, or play a couple of games. These are our best apps for the month of June. We still like the ones we picked in May, but these add to that list.
Amazon Kindle – Free
Amazon’s Kindle app is still the best app for reading because of the huge library of books available. This is a hot area for iPad apps, but Amazon has them all beat. In addition to the huge library, the Kindle is available as a stand-alone device, on your computer, and almost every mobile platform out there. If that is not enough to convince you, most Kindle edition books are cheaper than their dead tree counterpart – often this difference is $1 to $2, but deals can get as good as 50% off.
Bible by YouVersion – Free
The Bible is a hot selling item in the iOS app store. Unless you need a complicated or powerful study tool because you are a theologian or pastor like me, this app will do all you want. It is like the Bible meets the social network with group study options, reading plans to help you read through the Bible in different periods of time, and it lets you mark interesting verses with bookmarks and highlights as well as notes. Even if you are not a believer, it is a good idea to read the Bible since it has influenced Western thought for the last millennia. The social features let you share your insights with others and see what others think of particular passages.
Wired and other Conde Nast Magazines – Free app download with in app purchase for subscription
Magazines make great summer reading, but if you are on the go it’s hard to keep all of your magazines with you. Thankfully, the new Wired and Conde Nast iPad apps solve this problem, so that you can take your print subscriptions with you wherever your iPad goes. The Wired app is a free download and allows you to link your iPad to your subscription so that you can get access to Wired issues as soon as they go live without any extra fees. The same is true for a handful of other Conde Nast publications like GQ. If you don’t have a subscription you can purchase one in the app for $19.99 for 12 issues or purchase single issues for $4.99 each.
iBomber Defense – $2.99
iBomber is a fun World War II themed tower defense game. As you defend yourself against the enemy troops they fire on your gun positions forcing you to maintain them. You add various kinds of guns and artillery to the board and have to keep from letting a certain number of the enemy through your quadrant before 20 waves push through.
Spades HD – Free
If you love to play spades but don’t always want to pull out a deck of cards or a scoring pad, then this game will satisfy your longing. It is the basic spades game but is attractive. The opposition is sometimes a little too easy to beat on the lowest setting, but occasionally its nice to dominate the opponent. Of all the spades games in the app store this is the best.
BackBreaker 2: Vengeance HD – $.99
When you hand off the iPad to your kids to hit the road this summer why not hand off the very affordable Backbreaker 2: Vengeance HD game which tasks you with getting your player into the end zone with a series of jumps, jukes and spins. If you’re tired of running, take the other side of the field and dole out some vengeance to other runners. Incredibly fun, especially at 99 cents.
Based on trying out all of the major GPS apps except in the App Store except Tom Tom, Navigon is the best. It has turn-by-turn directions and you can add-on traffic and reviews of points of interest with an in-app purchase. The voices are clear and easy to understand. The app is pretty accurate, delivering the right directions and information about 97% of the time (by my best estimate). Navigon doesn’t have every point of interest, but it does a fairly good job even in my rural area.
If you’ve never used your iPad for GPS, you should try it. I love the huge screen propped up between my front seats just in front of the center console cup holders. It will not work on the Wi-Fi only iPad very well unless you wirelessly tether your iPad to your iPhone.
Navigon Now – $1.99
If you want to move copy an address from the web into Navigon you’ll be disappointed unless you have the Navigon Now app. This great app lets you copy the address from a webpage or email, paste it into Navigon Now and then open the address in Navigon so you can be on your way. This app saves plenty of typing and back and forth address checking. If you use Navigon on your iPad, this is an essential add-on app.
Local Eats – Free for a limited time, $.99 thereafter
Local Eats is an app that finds places to eat based on a city or your location. The data comes from the site Where the Locals Eat. It has reviews and helps you find the place with directions. The best part of this app is that it finds only those restaurants that are local to the city you are visiting – no McDonald’s or Pizza Hut entries. Just local restaurants that deliver a different taste while you are on the road.
Priceline – Free
The Negotiator doesn’t negotiate like the Priceline web site does. Instead it lists prices others have been able to negotiate for hotels. Many of the areas I tried to use the app for during a recent trip had no entries or only one. The reason we are listing it is that it still helps you find good deals based on the Browse feature which shows the names of the hotels and gives the best price you can get without negotiating. It also has a Radar feature which shows hotels on your current track. My family and I used it and saved about $10/night for hotels in three different cities.
Audible – Free, books or subscription extra
Audible is a subscription audio book service owned by Amazon. The app is great for downloading and listening to all the books you own. You can get a monthly subscription, buy individual books or do both. Subscriptions start at $7.49/month for the first three months and then it is $14.95 thereafter. With that you get a single credit each month. Most books cost a credit. When books you want cost more you can either purchase the book at a discount or wait till you have enough credits saved up from previous months. They roll over like some cell phone contracts do with minutes.
The quality of Audible books is great. In the app you can see a list of all your books and download them so you can listen. The player app is very good with play, pause, skip ahead/back and it will play at faster speeds which lets you hear books faster if you don’t mind the chipmunk sounding author.
hulu Plus – Free, with $7.95/month subscription
If you watch hulu online you know that it is a great way to enjoy TV, movies and a small number of shows made for hulu. The hulu Plus service is the same but you get access to more than just the last five episodes of most of the TV shows. You also get access to them via the mobile apps for iOS and on the Roku box. Unfortunately some shows are not available on the iPad like one my favorites The Simpsons. The quality is great as long as you have a decent Internet connection.
Netflix – Free, with minimum $7.95/month subscription
Netflix has been a long time DVD rental by mail service. When they added online streaming it changed the world for many of us. My family spends more time on Netflix than watching our DirectTV channels. They have a lot of older TV shows and many movies available for streaming to the iPad app. Like hulu above, if you have a good Internet connection the quality is very good. I just wish the Hollywood moguls would get their heads out of their collective behinds and realize that by limiting our access to the latest movies they are making more pirates who illegally download content. Rant aside, you do have to wait up to 90 days for the latest DVD releases to show up, if they ever do. I guess Hollywood thinks that I will buy the DVD instead of waiting to stream it. Usually it has the effect of making me forget about the movie until I stumble on it a year later. Selection and availability aside, the app and service deliver a solid experience.
ABC – Free
If any of your favorite TV shows are on ABC, then you might find them in the iPad app. You can watch past shows and even some older content no longer on ABC. The quality is good with a decent Internet connection and it is easy to use. If every network was as smart as ABC, we could all throw away our cable boxes and hook our iPads up to our TVs or just watch them on the tablet. I’d be willing to pay if they’d put all their shows and offer a streaming solution for sports or other live special events.