Best Android apps for getting around
You may have noticed that things are gone decidedly Android-flavoured this week on Pocket-lint. As part of our Android Week, we'll be bringing you round-ups of the best apps available for Android and for today's trick, we'll be naming our top picks for getting around. If you're in the UK then you'll know the importance of making the most of the sunny weather before it disappears and having a few handy apps tucked away on your smartphone should help you get to wherever it is that you're planning to spend the day.
Google News and Weather
- Free (pre-installed)
While other parts of the world may have reliable, long, warm summer, here in the UK the weather isn't always quite so predictable. That's why when we see a bit of sun, we all go mad, donning shorts and lighting barbecues and retiring to a sunny pub garden before you can say "SPF 50". In short, we've learnt to make the most of it. This app is pre-loaded on many Android 2.1+ handsets, including the Nexus One, but it's not yet available in the Android Market but the chances are that it will end up there once the new OS is launched. If you do have the app already, then this is your first port of call for checking on the weather conditions for the day (as well as looking out of the window, of course).
Along with news headlines, the app provides the latest weather reports, based on your location. It will give you a 24-hr forecast or you can plan ahead with a six-day weather prediction.
If you're planning on zipping around London then the easiest (and possibly hottest) way to get around is on the Tube. This subterranean train network is easy to use, thanks to its colour-coded map. While most Londoners know the tube map like the back of their hand, if you're in town on a flying visit, or you simply haven't got a very good memory for such things, then a helping hand may be required.
The London Underground app is the official offering from TFL (Transport for London) and gives you access to an interactive tube map and can use GPS to pin-point your location. It will give you live info on whether there any delays on lines suspended and you can also use it offline to browse the map and plan your route.
Rail Planner Live
If you're planning a day out in the sun then it's entirely possible that you'll be taking the train to your chosen destination. If that's the case then this app is absolute must-have, for any time of year.
Approved by National Rail Enquiries, the app lets you plan your journey by checking on train times for mainline stations across the UK in real time. As well as updates such as live delays and cancellations, the app will clue you up on which platform you need and fares. What's more, it's currently reduced from its normal price of £4.99, so get in quick.
Probably the most well-known of all mapping apps, Google Maps is often pre-loaded onto handsets, but if not then it's easy and free to download from Android Market. This is very handy for finding out where you are when you're completely lost and for planning your next move. You can also type in your planned destination and the app will work out the route from your current location for you.
You may find that there are smaller roads and landmarks that aren't marked, which can be very frustrating. However, it's mostly good and it's free so we can't complain too much.
AA Route Planner
No, this isn't the app for Alchoholics Anonymous, but for British motoring firm the Automobile Association. If you're planning on driving somewhere nice for the day then it's best to plan your route before you start. The AA's Route Planner app offers maps and routes for the whole of Great Britain and Ireland and it's continually updated. Unlike Google maps, and numerous other map apps, this one refers to actual roadsigns so what's on the screen of your smartphone will actually tally with what you see on the road.
You can select your starting point and destination using place name, address or post code and in turn the app will provide you with interactive maps and a list of directions with distances and approximate driving times. The app provides unlimited access to routes for 12 months, presumably after which you'll need to renew.
London A-Z Mini Atlas
If you decide to head into The Big Smoke for your day in the sun and you're not too sure of where things are then you'll be needing a map. Of course, you could kit yourself out with a paper-based A-Z, but that'll only add weight to your bag which will no doubt already be stuffed with sun cream and other optimistic trinkets.
This is one of the pricier Android apps around, but it's well worth the cash to have the entire road map of London ready to read on your mobile. What's more, it will tell you about all the tiny streets and building names that Google maps doesn't, making it much easier to find your way around. It's a big ol' download, but it will save to your SD card as long as you're packing Android 2.2 or later.
Bike Hub Cycle Journey Planner
While some mapping systems will only show you car routes, Bike Hub Cycle Journey Planner also includes bike lanes as well as cycle-friendly short cuts, complete with turn-by-turn navigation, voice instructions and vibrating alerts.
You can opt for the quickest route, or if you don't want to compete with heavy traffic then you can choose the quiestest route and the app will also try to avoid any hills where possible.
Sitting in a park supping cider or lukewarm Pinot Grigio from a plastic tumbler with your mates might seem like the best idea in the world when the sun makes an appearance, but a few hours down the line and you're probably going to need to locate the nearest facilites. This immeasurely useful app claims to be the world's biggest toilet database. Quite a claim.
It will help you to find the nearest public toilets to your current location and lists a staggering 60,000 public conveniences all over the world. It's based on user contributions so you can even submit new or missing toilets.
Car Finder AR
You've made it to the seaside, you've managed to snag a parking spot and you're ready to head for the beach. The flaw in the plan is that thousands of other people have done exactly the same thing, making the buinsess of locating your car again something of a challenge. That's where this AR Android app comes in handy. Once you've parked up you can log the location of you motor so that when you come to find it again you can use your phone's camera to give you get a real-life image of what's ahead of you and where you car is in relation.
You can also use the radar view to find your way back, which looks a little bit like the scanning equipment from Aliens, for an extra element of fun. It will also give you walking directions back to your car, along with a parking meter timer and alarm. What's more, if you've travelled to your sunny spot in convoy, then you can use Car Finder AR to record the locations of up to three cars.
Cycle Hire Widget
What better way to spend a warm sunny day that cycling around in the fresh air rather than being trapped among hoardes of commuters and tourists on the train or bus? If you don't have your own bike, then fear not. This homescreen widget will find your nearest cycle hire location and also includes live availability so hopefully you won't turn up to find that all the bikes have already been hired out.
As well as London, the app also supports over 30 other global cities (just make sure you check that your city is covered before you buy).
Have you got any others? Let us know in the comments box below.