Leaving on a trip and wondering if you should take your iPhone? Here’s a few things that I’ve figured out over the years if you want the most out of your trusty phone without paying huge bills.
1) Suspend your service. You can call ahead of time and tell them an exact date to suspend your service. They’ll ask why and you’ll just say that you’ll be out of the country and not using your phone. You MUST do this in order to make absolutely sure that you won’t get destroyed by data charges. Yes, you can keep your phone on airplane mode, but some of these tricks make it easy to slip up.
2) Wifi is your friend. When you get to a cafe or a hotel with wifi, let your phone download all of your messages, upload any photos you want to take, etc. Skype on iPhone is genius and when I have wifi I use it to call home and text people. But most importantly:
3) Use location services. The nice thing about iPhones (and maybe other phones, I wouldn’t know) is that the location services still work even if you suspend your service. Your compass works too. So you are able to pinpoint where you are on the globe and use it to navigate in google maps. But wait, how can I do that if I’m not connected to google maps?
4) PROTIP: when you get to a place with wifi (or you can even do it ahead of time), center your google maps over the place you are going to be, then use the top and front buttons to snap a screenshot. This will allow you to use the navigational services with a street map and google maps won’t try to reload. You can even zoom in and out. Sadly, you can’t use it to search. You can always use the little “crosshairs” button in the corner and it will track with you.
5) Check to see if Lonely Planet has published an iphone guide in the city you are going to visit. The Istanbul one was nice because I didn’t have a regular guidebook, but wanted to explore some of the outlying areas. These have ready-made maps of all of the places, and will locate you on them even without internet service.
6) Use your screenshot ability a lot. When you get to a place that has wifi, check out all the places you want to visit and snap photos of the screens. This has saved me numerous times when I need an address or I am having trouble communicating and can just show a cab driver what I mean. Take screenshots of any important websites–iPhone’s safari app has a tendency to try to reload webpages at the absolute worse times.
7) Use Foursquare while you are abroad if you can. You’d be amazed at how widespread it is, and the tips that people leave in various places are great.
8) Download a yoga program. While I am fully inculcated in the P90x cult and have the series on my laptop, having a yoga program can be really nice if you want something a bit more low-key.
9) Use it to take photos. My DSLR can be a real drag to tote around the city and I don’t always want to take the trouble to get it out and stick it in peoples’ faces. iPhones are a lot more casual and often can get pretty decent results. Moreso if you want to run it through the many programs I’ve talked about before. I also find that I’m a lot more willing to take silly shots of food and other things I want to remember.
10) Download a couple of decent games. Dear lord I’ve been on planes, trains, buses until I thought I would die…I’ve finished all my reading and have no desire to watch Avatar in Turkish again and I just want the trip to be over. I prefer card games for getting through the truly braindead wee hours.
Any other suggestions? I thought about getting a data plan with my iPhone while I was in Turkey, but decided to muddle through without it and it has been good enough.