Besides the Internet also smartphones have changed the way we travel and made some things much easier. I remember when it was cumbersome and usually expensive to make a quick call back home to let somebody know you are alive. For many travelers smartphones have even replaced the need for a separate camera.
Here are some of my favorite free apps:
Google translate supports 90 different languages and has multiple different ways of translating. The more obvious way is to just type in the phrase you'd like to translate. But you can also translate using your voice, camera or handwriting. The camera feature is neat as you can point your camera at a newspaper or sign and have the app translate it for you on the fly. You are able to listen to the translation but also get the translation in the native character set to you could just show taxi driver to read it. Some of the functionality does required a data connection so check what you need first. On Android devices you can download specific languages to your phone so you don't need a data connection on the go.
Google doesn't just have great map data but in many places google maps also has information about public transportation. I used this quite extensively in Japan a few years ago and it worked very well with their train system. What most people don't realize is that Google Maps also has an offline mode allowing you to save large map areas on your phone. Keep in mind that the data is usually being removed after 30 days.
Google Photo Sphere
Photo Sphere is basically a photo panorama on steroids. I thoroughly enjoy taking regular panoramas which most smartphones support well. Photo Sphere takes this to the next level allowing you to take a real 360 panorama where you can also look up and down. Since a picture is worth a thousand words just check out some of my photo spheres. It makes you feel like you are right there again. If you have one of the latest Android Camera apps installed you should be good already. Learn more about creating your own photo spheres in our step by step Photo Sphere guide.
What better way then bringing plenty of reading material without having to lug heavy books around. The Amazon eReader allows me to bring books and magazines to keep me busy when there is some downtime. Of course any eReader application will probably do depending on where you get your books.
One simple, convenient and cheap way to call your loved ones back home without paying an arm and a leg. All you need is some wifi internet connection. Skype also has the advantage that is isn't being blocked in countries like China.
TripAdvisor Offline City Guides
TripAdvisor has some useful city guides for several big cities that you can download to your phone prior to the trip so you don't need to rely on a data connection. This way you have some information about restaurants, hotels and attractions at your fingertips.
Another convenient application to communicate without having to shell out big bucks to your phone company for expensive text messages. One drawback of course is that you still need a data connection. With wifi being widely available this might not be a big problem in most countries. Keep in mind that some of the social media apps might be blocked in some countries.
Sometimes your travel might take you to places where you'll have great visibility for some serious stargazing. The application is using your phones built in digital compass and gyroscope to tell you what stars, constellations and deep sky objects you are looking at in real-time.
Adobe Photoshop Express
If you want to improve your photos on the phone before posting them on Facebook this app makes it very easy to automatically enhance them. PS Express also comes with many filters to similar to Instagram though PS Express doesn't force you to crop your images.
This is a messenger app similar to WhatsApp, allowing you to send text and make voice and video calls with your friends and family. This application is from a Chinese company so it will most definitely work while traveling in China as well
When you are traveling you'll most likely end up at a place that's using a different weights and measurement system than what you are using at home. It comes in handy to have a simple converter app with you. Depending on whether you are using and Android or iPhone you can try one or the other.