5 Must-Have Travel Apps For iPhone & Android Fans

September 19, 2012

Yesterday, our colleagues at Total Car Score offered their take on the best iPhone 5 apps for drivers. We agree with many of their picks, but we also know that a growing number of our friends own Android phones, which can't use software like Apple Maps.

Naturally, we began to wonder: what must-have travel apps would we recommend for owners of iOS and Android handsets? (Blackberry and Windows fans, we'll try to catch up with you soon.) Here's our current list of fave applications that will work on either operating system.

Tie: Google Maps, Waze

It's hard to believe that Google Maps debuted just seven years ago. In that short span of time, it's become a mainstay -- a place we go to search for nearby businesses, scope out potential apartments and hotels, and even create our own maps to share with friends. Google Maps' search functionality is superb, even when speaking place names. And who doesn't like turn-by-turn directions?

So why include Waze? Because as much as we love Google Maps, we don't really need it on a daily basis. Most of the time, we're commuting from home to office, a drive we know like the back of our hand. We don't need directions, we need traffic info, and on that front, Waze excels, which is probably why Apple tapped Waze to provide traffic data for Apple Maps. (Though sadly, that hasn't shielded Apple Maps from an avalanche of criticism from iOS users.) It's true that Google Maps includes real-time traffic, but we find Waze's color-coded interface easier to read when we're on the go.


Don't get us wrong, we love Pandora -- really, we do -- but Stitcher gives us so many more options by providing free access to dozens of radio stations and podcasts from around the globe. Need your news fix? Dial up NPR. Want to listen to the big game back home while you're on the road? Run a quick scan to find your favorite hometown station, and -- boom -- it's on. And like the rest of the apps on this list, Stitcher is free. 


It happens every week: we're out running errands and doing the mall thing when we suddenly realize that we're starving. We could hit the food court, but we'd really like to try someplace new -- ideally, someplace with more comfortable chairs and fewer screaming kids. So, we whip out Urbanspoon, ask for nearby recommendations, give it a shake, and like the Magic 8 Ball of our youth, we're presented with a plan. If we're skeptical, we can check out restaurant reviews from sites like Zagat and Eater, just to make sure we're barking up the right tree. Obviously, Urbanspoon comes in doubly handy when we're on vacation.


We've covered a lot of apps that promise to prevent distracted driving. The sad fact is, none are perfect. Few are free, most can be deactivated or overridden, and none are able to determine on their own whether the phone is owned by the driver or a passenger. To work well, a distracted-driving app needs to offer something more, and DriveScribe does, via gamification.

DriveScribe not only prevents distracted driving, it also offers tips on smart driving habits. The safer users are on the road, the more DriveScribe points they rack up. Ultimately, they can redeem those points for goods at places like Amazon.com and Dominos. DriveScribe may not be perfect, but there's something to be said for positive reinforcement.


We have to agree with our pals at Total Car Score: Gas Buddy remains the gold standard when it comes to finding cheap gas on the go. Other apps like Waze let you report gas prices (along with many other things), but Gas Buddy is dedicated exclusively to locating the least expensive fuel. With gas averaging around $3.85 a gallon nowadays, that's hugely important.

Do you know of other apps we should add to this list? (Remember, we're looking for those that run on both iOS and Android.) Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

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