5 reasons to take the iPhone on vacation

Even if you don't get reception where you're going, the iPhone is a useful travel tool.

Updated on 7/23/08 at 12:00pm PST.

Even if you won't get reception where you're headed, think twice about leaving your iPhone behind. The iPhone's all-new iTunes App Store makes it an even indispensable travel tool for international excursions, even if it's rendered essentially useless as a phone (unless you're not adverse to being charged oodles in roaming fees.)

Media console
As romantic as travel sounds, a large hunk of it is wasted on waiting. There's airport check-in, long train and bus rides, and time to kill while a fastidious companion prepares for the day. Besides, there's only so much battle a heavy book can do against an hour-long museum wait. That's when you plug in headphones and turn on the iPod, play a few games such as Texas Hold'em or Super Monkey Ball, or open up that preloaded e-book you've been meaning to read.

Super Monkey Ball on iPhone

How many levels of Super Monkey Ball can you pass on a four-hour train ride?

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Internet tablet
As long as you've got Wi-Fi, you'll still be able to surf the Internet and access Web mail from the iPhone while you're abroad. Text messages will shoot up your monthly bill, of course, and you could incur quite substantial data roaming fees for any application that uses data networks to update. But keep an eye out for Wi-Fi hot spots and you'll have your own personal Internet cafe--minus the spyware worry from dubious public PCs. To stop yourself from slipping into the territory of advanced charges, enter the Network settings to disable 3G and turn off data roaming.

Ice breaker
Not sure how to make small speak in a foreign language? Lonely Planet (review), Babelingo, iLingo, and Lingolook all have audio phrasebooks that cover much the same ground and help you find food, shelter, and new friends. If conversation fails, you can always pull the iPhone 3G out of its holster and dazzle the passersby with your hip possession of this moment's most hyped source of gadget jealousy. After all, who needs talk when you have flashy technology?

Lonely Planet Italian Audio Phrasebook

Lonely Planet is only one of many iPhone application vendors selling audio phrasebooks.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Note taker
If traveling makes you more alert to wondrous views, masterful architecture, and inspiring cuisine, you may find yourself waxing contemplative. The iPhone's native notepad is one way to jot down your impressions without worrying about a paper memo pad or pen. It isn't anything fancy, but you'll be able to e-mail your thoughts to yourself at a later date and can use the built-in application as a substitute for Web mail (and to avoid racking up data charges) while out of hot spot range.

Emergency flashlight
One of the first things a new cell phone owner understands is how to turn a cell phone into an improvisational flashlight. Now what if you screen was twice the size of the average cell phone and put out a clearer, unadulterated light than you'd get by just waking a sleeping phone? Several applications for iPhone will glow a full-screen white until you quit; one such freeware version is simply called Light.

There's a lot that the iPhone won't do for you when you're traveling abroad. It's not so hot with roaming charges, of course, and if you're not careful it's easy to rack up a bundle in fees. The iPhone's weak camera is also a drawback, and not a substitute for a point-and-shoot camera. Not so with the Nokia N95, which, with its 5-megapixel shooter, hovers in the same price range and obviates the need for another $200, $300, or more gadget purchase. Still, the broad range of iPhone apps gives you breathing room to innovate travel uses.

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