I love my unlocked iPhone. As a free-range business owner I have a requirement to be constantly connected - but long gone are the days of the corporately sponsored Blackberry where I let someone else worry about the bill. Although WiFi is ubiquitous in the US and we are stunned when a coffee shop doesn't provident it for free, Wifi is (surprise!) not always easy to find in the rest of the world, even in Europe where we are now.
With my trusty iPhone I can wander in to any phone shop across the world and - ta-da! - be instantly, constantly connected for about $10 a month. Here's how I use 3G to keep my life and businesses running smoothly as we wander the world.
Before I tell you about apps... if you have an unlocked phone for your travels please don't come back to the US and sign up for some massively expensive main player plan. It is possible to get unlimited data, voice and text for only $40 a month without a contract (which means you can stop and start as you please). I use Net10 Wireless and have had great service for years.
The Basics: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn - I don't have to tell you why I have these. I need them.
GV Phone: I have a free Google Voice number (you can have one too). This is my permanent number. No matter where I am in the world I can be reached on my Google Voice number. GV Phone let’s me make outgoing phone calls for free to anyone in the United States. Skype is always my first choice for coaching and conference calls but sometimes when I am stuck on the road GV Phone is a life saver.
Vonage: If you plan on traveling in the US only Vonage is a great app to have if you have a Vonage plan. It allows for you to call throughout the US as well as to 60 other countries directly from your cell phone using your home phone plan. We don't use this anymore as I canceled my personal Vonage account in favor of Google Voice and Skype for international calling but I still think it's worth a mention.
Skype: Obviously. But - an additional thing I love about Skype is the ability to buy local phone numbers (for cheap) anywhere in the world. My 92 year-old Mother-In-Law was freaking out that she wouldn't be able to pick up her phone and reach us whenever she wanted to. She doesn't have Wifi or 3G so she couldn't use Skype to phone us - and our wandering Google Voice number would prove to be too expensive as she would be dialing a US phone from a basic Scotland voice plan. We purchased an inexpensive Edinburgh phone number through Skype - now she can call whenever she likes.
WhatsApp: My daughter is addicted to texting but texting costs can add up quickly (especially on International cheap SIM cards). With WhatsApp she can text anyone, anywhere for free as long as they have WhatsApp. Our daughter doesn't have her own phone by the way, a fact that causes hyperventilation and panic attacks in most teenagers in Europe.
Tether.com: A sneaky little app that I am not even sure is legal in most countries (jk) but it is truly a life-saver. In the moments where you must be on your laptop (you need to edit a file, or just need a bigger screen) and you can't find wi-fi anywhere… Tether.com to the rescue. Tether.com allows you to plug your iPhone in to your Mac, hook them together, and then use the phone data plan to get online on your laptop. Unless you are lucky enough to have an unlimited data-plan you need to be careful with this one - but it's great for emergencies.
Wi-Fi Finder: Not always updated completely but this app can be incredibly helpful. I have had many a moment where I have to be on a conference call now and the Wi-Fi Finder has come to my rescue. Just open the app and a (using your current location) a list will pop-up of all of the surrounding Wi-Fi connections categorized by paid and free. Awesome.
DuoLingo: Before you go or on the go - this is the best language learning app I have ever come across. In my opinion the ramification aspect makes it even better than Rosetta Stone. It's just more fun. Best of all... it's free!
Words Lens: I have to admit that this app freaks me out a little bit. It seems so magical it's creepy. When you hover the camera phone over words in a foreign language this app replaces (yes actually replaces) the words (in the same font and everything) with English. It is obviously still being developed as sometimes you can't keep still enough for the translation to come through but it is still quite amazing. Tip - we took to placing one of the ubiquitous European glass ashtrays over the text and placing the phone on the ashtray. The text showed through of reading but we weren't required to keep a still hand.
MyLanguagePro: A fabulous language translator that even speaks the translation for you so that you pronounce it correctly. You can save phrase translations that you use again and again to refer back to. I find that using this app helps me learn the language more quickly - I have even handed my iPhone over to Italians so they can type a message to me when I can't understand (not recommended unless you know the person very well!)
Currency Converter: I'm pretty good with Euros but lost when we are in Switzerland.
Mint: Have I mentioned I am a personal finance freak? The reason that we have so much freedom is because our spending is directly related to our Ultimate Whys. And always tracked, very, very closely. If I have Mint with me I can categorize spending and check our budgets as we go and be sure that we aren't overdoing it.
AirBnB: As we travel we have slowly developed an aversion to hotels for anything longer than a few nights stay. Having the AirBnB app in my hands is awesome as we can quickly find affordable, unique accommodation anywhere we go.
HotelTonight: We love to plan - but sometimes it seems we make plans for the sake of changing them. We often change our mind as we travel which means we don't often book ahead as we are moving from one place to the next. Hotel Tonight looks at your location and shows you hotels with available rooms for that night at deeply discounted prices.
Around Me: I use this all the time in the US. I have a problem. When I get hungry I need to eat NOW. My husband hates this problem as it can become very time consuming searching, especially for a plant-based celiac. Around Me know where you are and tells you where everything is. It's saved us from an empty gas tank or two as well!
MiFlight: Remember that time when you checked on line, walked straight through the security line and ended up having to spend 2 hours sitting at your gate? Remember how you got all confident and left it later the next time and the security line was a mile long and you came this close to missing your flight? Well with this app you don't have to find yourself in either situation. Just tell MiFlight which airport you are flying from and it will return a list of the wait times at security.
Wunderlist: There are lots of choices for tracking tasks so I wouldn't get hung up on this one. I use Wunderlist because I've used them all and this one feels nicest.
Buffer Daily: Got some time in that check-in line? Taking that highway drive to the Pisa airport for the 50th time? Get some reading and sharing done with the Daily recommended reads from Buffer. Just a swipe posts them to your Buffer account. You do have a Buffer account?
Feedly: It's how I stay on top of my favorite blogs. I like the magazine feel of it.
SoundGecko: You know how much we drive sometimes? A lot. You know how car-sick I get if I read in the car? A lot. This handy app will take the url of any blog post or online article, convert it to voice and send it to your iPhone. Yep. You can "read" your stuff on the road. I load up Sound Gecko with good stuff right before I get on the road and I'm a happy camper.
Siri: Oh what would I do without you my love! From instant measurement calculations, to managing my calendar, to "writing my emails" while I am in the car (see above re: car sick), to taking notes for me as I am listening to podcasts or SoundGecko, to amusing my daughter with conversation. Travel life would be that much more lonely and difficult without Siri.
Shazam: I'm sure that everyone has Shazam on their phone by now. I remember when a friend showed us this app. We were sitting outside Luca's cafe in Borgotaro having an aperitif and I commented on how cool an Italian song was, "let's find out what it is", said our friend Colin and he busted out Shazam. The best part about this for me is the tags. Because Shazam instantly records your location when you heard the song, going through my list is like a journey back in time to the very best parts of our trips.
Gratitude! : I have a lot to be grateful for - but travel and life as a free-range business owner can sometimes get stressful. I practice daily gratitude for two reasons; to remind me of all I have to be grateful for and live quietly for a moment in that gratitude, to journal my daily experiences so I can always have them with me to make me smile when things get tough. This lovely app has a sweet, simple interface. You can list your daily gratitudes, attach photos and quotes and rate your day.
With all these handy tools always in the palm of my hand I am truly able to run my businesses from absolutely anywhere. And who says we are years away from the 4th economy! There are thousands and thousands of apps so I know for a fact I haven't captured all of them. What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments so I can go and download them!