An App For Apps Makes Travel Easier, Maybe Too Easy

Apps
Joe Lanman/Flickr

In the world of travel apps, we’ve seen geo-based, crowd-sourced and sharing technology that has opened up a lot of possibilities for travelers. We can automatically create a travel log with one, find a hotel on the fly with another and map our way through unknown lands with ease. The result? A home screen full of apps that demand to be sorted, modified and updated to be useful. But now, in a new generation that leverages a bit of artificial intelligence, app developers have a plan to make that easier. Gaining a mind of its own, your smartphone can do much more than we ask of it.

Tempo is a calendar app that uses learning algorithms to figure out what information you’re looking for, if not anticipate your needs. It’s a first generation of artificial intelligence applied to smartphones that considers all information sources available to present relevant information.

“After you grant Tempo access to your email and calendars, the app searches for all the tidbits of schedule-related information you have stored in your accounts, gathering it together and presenting it cleanly inside individual calendar events,” notes a Wired article.Going to a meeting across town? Given authorization, Tempo will take that calendar note to “meet client for lunch” and add access to recent email, relevant documents for the meeting, provide parking information at the location, information about the restaurant and check you in on Facebook or Foursquare, automatically.

Right now, we would need to open multiple apps to make that happen. In the future, we may just be along for the ride.

An iPhone Case Designed With Globetrotters In Mind

These days, a smartphone is an indispensible item on most travelers’ packing lists, but if you’re heading abroad you need to make sure your phone will work – and work cheaply at that. One idea we’ve suggested before is to switch out your phone’s SIM cards so you don’t get hit with massive international roaming charges.

That’s still excellent advice, but the problem many of us face is how to get our SIM cards out of our phones, and how to keep them safe when they’re not being used. This is the dilemma that two avid travelers are hoping to address with the SIMPLcase, an iphone case designed especially for international jetsetters.Unlike most iPhone cases where the focus is on the decoration or “bling” on the outside, what makes the SIMPLcase special is what’s on the inside. The interior of this durable plastic iPhone case holds a special tool that’s used for easily ejecting your phone’s SIM card tray, so you don’t have to mess around with pins or other pointy objects that might scratch your phone. There are also three padded slots to store spare SIM cards so there’s no need to worry about losing or damaging the delicate, fingernail-sized memory chips.

Despite the internal storage, the SIMPLcase still has a sleek profile, which is great for minimalist travelers. Another bonus is the ability to turn the iPhone case into a phone stand by slotting a credit card into the groove on the back of the case. Propping the phone up this way makes skyping with friends back home or watching videos that much more comfortable.

If you’re interested in the SIMPLcase, you can pick one up for $12 by jumping on board the company’s Kickstarter project. Right now, the case is only available for the iPhone 5, but if there’s demand, the company also plans to make cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

This is just another one of the many great travel innovations we’ve already seen come out of Kickstarter. Click to check out images of the SIMPLcase below.

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[Photo credit: lgcldesigns]

Gadling Gear Review: SYSTM iPhone Cases

SYSTM Vise iPhone CaseThe iPhone is beyond a doubt a beautiful piece of technology. Over the past few years, Apple’s iconic device has set the standard by which all other smartphones are compared. But that beauty comes with a price, as anyone who has ever dropped their iPhone onto a hard surface can attest. A good case can alleviate that heartbreak, however, providing extra protection when you need it most.

Some of the best cases available today are designed and built by a company called SYSTM. They are durable, rugged and provide more protection than just about any other case I’ve found. Better yet, they’re attractive, thin and don’t detract from the look of the iPhone in any way. Here are two unique options that will ensconce your iPhone 4/4S or 5 in a protective shell that will keep it safe from just about any kind of danger.

SYSTM Vise ($49.95)
If you’re looking for the ultimate in iPhone protection then the SYSTM Vise is the case for you. It provides three distinct layers of padding by first wrapping the phone in a soft rubber sheath, which is then covered in two pieces of outer armor that lock tightly into place around the device. This hard external shell is smooth, yet easy to grip, and features access points for the volume buttons and mute switch without obstructing the camera lens in anyway.

The Vise provides a fantastic level of shock absorption, which protects both the front and back of the iPhone, keeping it safe and secure when accidentally dropped, even from a substantial height. The corner and side pads are also reinforced to keep the fragile edge of the smartphone from suffering damage as well. Those areas can be especially susceptible to damage.Considering the level of protection the Vise delivers, the case is actually smaller and lighter than you would expect. It does, however, add a measure of thickness and weight to the iPhone that is undeniable. Still, frequent travelers will probably be willing to give up a bit of size and weight in order to keep their device secure while on the road. This is the kind of case that is equally useful in an urban environment as it is on a backpacking trip into the wilderness, and unlike a lot of other cases, it is easy to remove when you don’t feel it is needed.

It should be noted that the Vise comes with a detachable belt clip, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. While it does do a good job of holding the phone in place, I found it to be a bit larger than I would have liked and didn’t use it much after initial testing.

SYSTM Hammer iPhone CaseSYSTM Hammer ($29.95)
There is no denying that the Vise provides unprecedented levels of protection for our favorite smartphone, but not everyone is willing to sacrifice weight and thickness for that level of security. SYSTM has those users covered too however as they offer a thinner, lighter case in the form of the Hammer.

This case consists of a form-fitting, soft rubber sleeve that closely resembles the inner lining that comes with the Vise. Unlike that case however, the Hammer consists of just this single layer of protection and doesn’t include the hard outer shell that makes the Vise so unique. The Hammer does have reinforced corners and is made of shock absorbing materials, which combine to provide an overall excellent level of protection without adding any undue bulk.

Much like the Vise, the Hammer is incredibly easy to add or remove from the iPhone as needed. But unlike its bulkier counterpart, you probably won’t feel the need to take the Hammer off your phone quite so often. Since it is so much thinner, and does an excellent job of enhancing our grip while protecting the device, you’ll probably just want to leave it in place at all times. After a day or two, you’ll come to appreciate the qualities that it delivers and will likely forget that you even have it on the phone anyway.

Both the Vise and Hammer are great products and would make excellent holiday gifts. The Vise provides a high level of protection for those who take their tech toys to demanding environments or are just simply hard on their phones. The Hammer, on the other hand, isn’t quite so rugged and durable, but it still provides plenty of protection in a thinner and lighter package. Either one will keep your smartphone safe from harm and just as beautiful as it was the day it came out of the box.

Photo of the Day: Pomegranates in Jerusalem


Sometimes, the most hidden corners of a city are its most interesting. Take this sliver of Jerusalem‘s Muslim Quarter, where a small pomegranate stand, a chair, a door, a mirror, some electrical wires, and graffiti compose one of the most visually striking images in the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Plus, this Photo of the Day was taken with an iPhone! Flickr user Better Nothing Than Almost proves that when the subject, lighting, and composition are right, the rest doesn’t really matter. Well, maybe some photo-ready iPhoneography apps help too.

Does your photo belong here? Upload your favorite travel shots, whether pro or Instagram, to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Cisco kills the Flip and travelers just move on

cisco flip camera videocamera camYesterday, Cisco announced that it would be closing down its Flip camera operations as part of an effort to refocus on the company’s core business. Cisco bought Flip a mere two years ago and quickly made it the most recognizable brand of consumer HD video cameras. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Mary, too) could record their kids, vacations and random acts of police brutality in 720p HD video. Travelers embraced the Flip because it was small, had no extra components to pack and allowed them to record their trips in stunning HD. Well, stunning assuming that the conditions were perfect (read: well lit and no background noise). However, as more and more smartphones and consumer cameras added HD video capabilities, the idea of having a second video device quickly became archaic. Why tote around a Flip when your DSLR, point and shoot or, heck, even your phone can do the exact same thing? And, with one simple press release yesterday, Cisco pulled the plug on the Flip. It burned hot, it burned quickly and now it’s gone. But, does anyone care?I own a Flip. Many of the videos that I have recorded for Gadling were made using the Flip. However, I always recognized and bemoaned the tiny camera’s limitations. The editing software that was bundled with the Flip was useless. I always deferred to iMovie and, more recently, Final Cut Pro. The internal microphone on the Flip was abysmal. It required you to be uncomfortably close to the camera or to speak in an unnaturally high volume. The lack of a port for an external microphone was an issue that users complained about from the Flip’s inception. The Flip also necessitated optimal lighting conditions to record anything even close to watchable.

All of that said, for your average traveler, the Flip was a revelation. When the conditions were right, consumers could record lasting memories in a quality never before imaginable to anyone other than professional videographers. The Flip was affordable, tiny and simple to operate. Sadly, it never evolved while other segments of the technology market surpassed it.

If you’re looking to point fingers in the death of the Flip (and don’t feel like blaming it entirely on Cisco’s poor management of the brand), look no further than the iPhone 4. Apple put an HD camcorder inside its already popular smartphone and showed that merging all of your key portable devices did not require sacrificing any single one of them (except for maybe call quality in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco…but that’s another story). Now, Android phones have HD, consumers are more comfortable upgrading to DSLR cameras that shoot HD and many point and shoots, including the popular Canon S95, put HD video in the palms of people’s hands. And since travelers rarely want to carry extra gear, the Flip, that simple unitasker, is no longer necessary.

Would phones and consumer cameras have upgraded to HD video as quickly as they did if the Flip hadn’t become so popular? It’s hard to say. The Flip certainly did change people’s thinking about video quality and made HD a consumer standard rather than just the professional standard. Cisco, it seems, was either lazy or unmotivated. Other companies with handheld HD video cameras such as Kodak never seemed interested in pushing their products through marketing the way that Cisco did in recent years. Perhaps they realized that the market for pocket HD video cameras had a ceiling and that it was reached almost immediately.

Are travelers sad to see the Flip go? Probably not. Cisco says that their transition plan will support current Flip customers. However, most people who are now interested in taking better videos – people who may have been inspired by using the Flip – have probably already moved on to a new product. Most likely, their phone and/or camera already does what the Flip did for them before.

In the history of travel gear, the Flip is but a blip. Its influence, however, may be underrated. We can all shoot in HD now. Most of our trip videos are still boring and poorly edited, but boy do they look sharp.

RIP, Flip.