This week J.D. helps us deal with holiday travel by sharing tips on making the experience a little easier and Pedro helps us stuff our stockings — and our ears — with a review of two new earphones from RBH Sound and Bowers & Wilkins. In the news Twitter changes its blocking policy but has an immediate change of heart; Facebook rolls out auto-play video ads; Samsung gets set to release its own Android gamepad; Apple announces its iTunes year-end Top Ten; The Museum of Science Fiction is set to open in 2017; and Flash Gordon could be headed for a serious big-screen remake.
Yes, it’s Holiday Travel Season time once again, and that means it’s time for our annual list of tips that can make the experience slightly easier:
- Get the app for your airline. You can check in for your flight, get updated gate information, get alerts about delays and even download your electronic boarding pass. United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines are among the major air carriers packing their own apps for the popular mobile platforms. If you’re packing an iPhone, you can usually download your boarding pass to Apple’s Passbook app so it pops up on your lock screen, ready to scan, on the day of your flight.
- Check the weather. Winter travel has already proved a little insane due to the Thanksgiving and early December snowstorms this year, so hit up your phone’s app store and download one of the forecast apps that tell you what may be messing up your travel plans — so you can get to work on contingency options.
- Track the flight. If you’re on the go or picking up family at the airport, a flight tracker app or mobile site can also come in handy for alerts about delays, cancellations and other news you need on the go. FlightView, FlightAware, FlightTrack and Flight Update are just some of the options and paid versions of some apps also include bonus features like alternate flights and airport maps; check out a few apps here. The free Kayak app can also track flights and maybe even help you find a cheap hotel room near the airport of the weather screws up your plans.
- Stay charged. When you get to the airport, scope it out thoroughly to find the charging stations for your phone or tablet. And keep in mind, some airlines like Delta are even sprucing up their waiting areas with free loaner iPads to help you pass the time before you fly. As shown here at Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, some terminals are even getting high-tech refurb jobs with plenty of charging stations and free loaner iPads that can help you pass the time — and even order a pricey diner breakfast while you wait to board your early-morning flight.
And if you’re looking for easier, the Transportation Security Administration is expanding its TSA Pre✓™ program that lets you keep your shoes, belt and laptop where they were when you left the house. Every little bit helps.
Safe travels to 2014, Pop Tech Jammers.
Whoever said, “The journey is the reward” never had to fly cross-country in the middle seat of an overbooked Boeing 757, but getting home for the holidays is what people are doing this time of year. Whether we’re coming, going, or waiting for someone else’s delayed flight to finally get in, at least we have apps.
Although it’s known more as a fare-finder, Kayak’s mobile app packs in a ton of other travel-related features (including airport information from GateGuru, an airline-fee chart, a currency converter and …a packing list). The Kayak app can also track flights, but if you want a dedicated app for locating planes, there’s no shortage of ’em — just browse your mobile app store.
Flight Update (and Flight Update Pro) for iOS are $5 and $10 respectively, and bring a ton of flight-status and other travel information together into one well-designed app. FlightView for Android (which has a freebie and paid versions with more features for 99 cents and $4) is another flight-status app for those rockin’ a Google-powered device.
Mobiata’s versatile FlightTrack app comes in several editions (free to $10) and comes in versions for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. The company also makes the $4 FlightBoard app for iOS and Android that turns your phone into your chosen airport’s arrival and departure board, in case you can’t see it slumped in your sticky vinyl chair down at the overcrowded gate.
Need live flight-tracking on the Web? Check out site like FlightStats and FlightAware (which has mobile apps for just about every smartphone platform) to check a flight’s status and get other aviation-related information.
If you don’t have to fly this season, satisfy your schadenfreude with US News & World Report’s list of America’s Meanest Airlines. Or, if you’re traveling by national rail instead, check out Amtrak’s mobile offerings. You may not be able to make the trains run on time yourself, but you can at least check the schedule, buy and use eTickets, and upgrade your seat.
But no matter how you get there, Pop Tech Jam wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!