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Old 06-19-10, 02:37 PM   #1
raybo
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My experience with an iPhone on tour

On my recent Atlantic Coast tour, I carried an iPhone. I've always carried a cellphone and an audio player on tour so it wasn't a complete change from my usual practice.

I've written an article about my experience which includes apps I really liked (TrackMyTour, Yelp, Google Maps), things I didn't (lost audio bookmarks, taking notes, trouble with biking gloves), and other observations.

I'd be interested in experiences others have had when using the iPhone or other smart phones, especially in areas in the US with low network services or places outside the US.

Ray
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Old 06-19-10, 03:00 PM   #2
mattlavallee
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I recently did a tour in Canada with mine. I changed my plan to include Canadian calls for that month, and bought 20 mb of data. I didn't use mine as much as you, it was usually either turned off or just stowed in a pannier during the day. I mostly used it while in a wifi zone, but there were a few times when I'd check weather or email at the end of the day where there wasn't any wifi. I used Google maps a handful of times when my paper map didn't show enough detail. I used Hostelhero to book a room a couple times, tried Everytrail but found it ran down batteries too fast, and took a few photos which didn't come out great. For me, the biggest value was the internet connection, self-locate ability on maps, and plain old phone. I would love it if the camera was as good as a real camera, but every shot I took turned out much better on my Olympus. I could (and have) easily done without it, but it saved me time on a few occasions and I didn't ever have to seek out an Internet cafe.
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Old 06-19-10, 03:08 PM   #3
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Hey, interesting article. I've only done one weekend tour with the iPhone, but I found it very useful as I was going off road. I used the TopoMaps app to get USGS topos of the area, and found the GPS somewhat useful -- not because I was lost but because I needed to know if I was off private property so I could camp. Oh, and in one urban area for finding a good bike route. In general I was extremely happy.

I'm leaving in a week for another tour where the iPhone will be my only communications device for a couple of months. I'll also use it for music and for reading eBooks using the Stanza app.

Since the AT&T network sucks, I'm really not sure how well it's going to work where I'm going. But since my main use is the USGS topos and GPS, it's still going to be very helpful.
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Old 06-19-10, 09:38 PM   #4
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I've had two SIM cards that died suddenly with no apparent cause (the second was last week in Iceland in a remote area rather devoid of dwellings or traffic, with just lava fields and some recent ash). A stark reminder not to rely only on your cell phone for emergency situations.

I find an iPhone useful for browsing once you're settled for the day, but find it too fragile to mount it on a bike and expect it to be functional after a crash (when you might need more). Cyclemeter is a great app for cyclists, otherwise. As a GPS, I still prefer an eTrex (more rugged, longer battery life). iPhone's camera sucks (I have the 3GS model), for anything more than "utility snaps" (shooting a snippet of a map or some directions something like that) I prefer to use a dedicated small camera such as the Canon S90.
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Old 06-19-10, 11:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raybo View Post
I'd be interested in experiences others have had when using the iPhone or other smart phones, especially in areas in the US with low network services or places outside the US.
I took my iPhone 3G along as my only "computer" when I rode down the Pacific Coast last September. During the day, I usually had both WiFi and cell service turned off. I was originally planning to have the phone turned off entirely, but I found myself using it often enough that it was useful to have it powered on but in "airplane" mode.

Apps I found useful:

Twitterrific:
used it to keep family and friends informed about where I was, what I was doing, and post the occasional picture. It has a location feature, but I always kept forgetting to use it! Twitterrific was one of the few apps that worked well in low-connectivity areas (e.g. Big Sur). As long as I didn't try to upload photos, it was fine.

Mail:
again, useful for keeping in touch with people as well as occasionally checking in with people at the office

Maps:
I have a Garmin Edge 705, so that's what I used for the majority of my navigation. Once I got to my destination for the day, I used the Maps application to find my way around. The Garmin is good for recording where you've been and for following a pre-plotted route, but it kinda sucks for on-the-fly stuff and points of interest.

AccuWeather & The Weather Channel: For some reason, I was always obsessed with the weather while on tour. The built-in weather app doesn't give much detail, so I alternated between AccuWeather and TWC trying to figure out what the next day's weather was going to be like.

I also carry a decent point-and-shoot digital camera, so I often ended up juggling the P&S and the iPhone taking two pictures of the same thing: one to send off to folks immediately (via Twitter or e-mail) as well as a higher-resolution one to use after the trip. In bright sunlight, I found that it was pretty difficult to compose and focus with the iPhone; the screen just wasn't bright enough to see clearly.

One of the things that worked better than I expected was watching movies. I rented a couple through iTunes and transferred them to the phone before leaving. Hold the screen close and movies are surprisingly watchable. The only caveat, at least for rented movies, is that you have to be able to connect to an Apple server before you can start watching the movie.
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