10 tips to turn your iPhone into the perfect holiday companion

Laurence Cable
24 June, 2012
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If you’re planning to shoot holiday photos and video with the iPhone’s camera, make sure it’s got enough space to store them. To find out how much room is free, tap Settings > General > Usage, where you’ll be shown what’s taking up the most space. Don’t forget you can delete media on the go. Simply find the item to delete in the Music or Videos app, swipe from left to right across its name and tap Delete.

That’s the basics covered. But we’ve only just got started…

1. Check you can roam…

Using a phone abroad is known as ‘roaming’ and it’s important to check you’re going to be able to do this before you leave. Roaming is controlled by your mobile network provider and not all networks enable roaming by default, so call them up a couple of days before setting off and ask them to switch it on.

It’s also a good idea to find out what it costs to use a phone in the area you’re going to, because this varies. Remember that calls and messages sent from abroad won’t come out of your monthly allowance: they’ll be billed separately. And you’ll also be charged for receiving calls abroad as well.

Some networks sell special overseas packages that provide lower overseas rates than you’d usually be charged, although these typically have to be taken out on a long-term basis and are designed for frequent travellers: they’re worth looking up, though.

2. …but switch off data roaming

Disable Data Roaming before you leave to avoid a hefty bill by preventing your phone from connecting to foreign 3G networks.

While sending texts and making the odd call abroad generally won’t break the bank, 3G data use can be a killer.. The average iPhone user gets through about 15MB per day, which could saddle you with a huge bill.

The good news is you can keep your wallet happy by altering a single setting. On your iPhone, tap Settings > General > Network. Next, turn Data Roaming to Off. This will prevent your phone from connecting to mobile data networks.

If you think you’ll need 3G web access, some networks offer special deals on overseas data use; check with your provider to see what they offer.

3. Do it like a local

A local pay-as-you-go SIM card is likely to offer better value than using your normal SIM. Wikipedia is a good place to discover what networks operate in the country you’re going to. Armed with a list of names, search for who offers the best deals. Look for packages that include mobile data and note that bundled minutes and texts may only be valid within that country, so they’ll be no good for keeping in touch with those back home.

You may be able to order a SIM online, but otherwise note the network and plan you’re after and hunt down a newsagent or phone shop when you arrive. The iPhone 4 and 4S need a micro-SIM and don’t forget your SIM-ejector.

You’ll only be able to use a foreign SIM if your iPhone isn’t locked to the mobile phone network. If you bought it directly from Apple, you’re fine. If you have a contract phone from a network you’ll need to ask them to unlock it (which may cost extra and they may refuse to do so). Unlocking it yourself or in an unofficial phone shop, will void your warranty.

4. Stay powered up

Your iPhone’s of little use with a dead battery, so make sure you’ve got the right kit to charge it. You won’t need a new power adapter, because the one it came with will deal with 100-240V, 50-60Hz power. You will, however, need an adapter with the correct pins. Apple sells a World Travel Adapter Kit for $55 with lots of bells and whistles included, but a standard adapter from a hardware store should suffice.

For those times you’ll be away from power sockets for longer, think about a battery pack. Case-style batteries that clip neatly round your iPhone are the most portable. The Spyder PowerShadow i4 Battery Case, PADACS UltraCharge Mini and Phonesuit Elite Battery are good options.

5. Play it safe

Make sure you’ve locked down your iPhone before you go away, to keep its contents hidden if you misplace it.

The iPhone’s an expensive bit of kit, so take a few steps to protect it and its contents.

Set a Passcode Lock to hide your data from snooping eyes if you lose it. Tap Settings > General > Passcode Lock. Make sure the top button reads Turn Passcode Off, that Require Passcode is set to Immediately and Siri is Off. If you’re worried about data falling into the wrong hands, set Erase Data to On and your phone will wipe itself after 10 incorrect passcode attempts.

Also make sure you’ve set up Find My iPhone. While it isn’t a foolproof way of tracking a lost phone abroad (it requires a Wi-Fi or 3G data connection to tell the Apple servers where it is and you’ll probably have switched Data Roaming off), it’s a useful tool to have available. Download the app, open it and tap Setup Instructions. If the worst does happen, go to www.icloud.com on any computer and sign in with your Apple ID to see if your phone shows up.

Finally, make sure any travel insurance covers loss or theft of your iPhone or, if you have phone insurance, whether it’s valid abroad.

6. Find local Wi-Fi

Many hotels, restaurants and cafés offer free or cheap Wi-Fi access. To help locate your nearest network, grab JiWire’s free Wi-Fi Finder app, which will find free and paid-for Wi-Fi networks worldwide. Before you leave home, open the app and tap More > Offline database available. Flick the switch to On. This will download the most up-to-date list of networks.

When there’s no English available, Lonely Planet’s range of translator apps can help you work out foreign phrases.

7. Name that word

You can’t always be sure the places you’ll visit will have English versions of menus, tourist or transport information available. A search of the App Store will bring up countless free translation apps, but the vast majority of these require an internet connection.

Lonely Planet’s Offline Translator apps are a good option because they don’t require the internet. There’s a range of languages available costing between $8.49 and $10.49 and each app will translate both ways between English and your language of choice. The apps will accept text as well as voice input.

Word Lens is a clever option: it enables you to point your iPhone camera up at words, which it translates in real time. It only does English to French or Spanish and vice versa.

8. Download maps

Brilliant though it is, the iPhone’s Maps app has one big drawback when it comes to use abroad: it doesn’t store any maps on your phone, meaning it can’t come to your rescue when you get hopelessly lost in a strange city where you haven’t got internet access.

Fear not, though, because there are easy and cheap ways to get full foreign maps on your iPhone that will work anywhere, whether you have a data connection or not. Our favourite is the remarkably well-polished City Maps 2Go, which costs $1.99 and keeps its maps on your phone. You’ll need to download the maps you want on a Wi-Fi or 3G connection before you leave home. Open the app up and allow it access to your current location. Then browse through to decide which maps you want and download them.

9. Get a sat-nav

Driving abroad can be bewildering at the best of times, let alone when you get lost. Make things easier by installing a sat-nav on your iPhone. The majority of these apps store their maps on your phone, meaning you’ll be able to use them for free abroad. This is because your iPhone pinpoints its location anywhere in the world using the GPS, which is free.

Price-wise, you’ve got plenty of choice: the big players such as TomTom, Garmin and CoPilot all offer good apps, but many of these cost upwards of $20, depending on the country or region you want.

At the other end of the scale are the likes of Navmii GPS Live (which uses professionally created maps and costs $5.49 per country) and Navfree, which uses crowd-sourced maps from OpenStreetMap and won’t cost a thing. It’s worth launching the app before you go abroad, because some require an internet connection for initial activation.

10. Install some guide books

Rather than lug around a weighty tome, load a guide book on to your iPhone. Your best bet is to search the App Store by typing in the name of the country or city you’re going to, followed by ‘guide book’. Some publishers have released actual apps, such as Lonely Planet and DK, but don’t forget to look in the Books category too, where you’ll find further guides that you can download and read in iBooks.



2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Marc b says:

    This is not just for iPhones but take a double adapter or power board with you so you can recharge several things at once with only one travel adapter.

  2. liz says:

    very helpful thank you :)

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