Monday, May 10, 2010

7 iPhone Apps to Make Your Touring Life Better


As you may be able to tell from the lack of a regular posting schedule and the constant plugs for my band's gigs in various cities around the US, I happen to be on tour right now. (We're actually just two dates from the end now, and after a much needed rest, things should get back to normal here at Waveformless again.)

I've never been a big cell phone person. Sometimes it's kind of nice to not be able to be reached. But in a touring situation, they can be invaluable, so shortly before our tour, I picked up an iPhone 3Gs figuring it would come in handy. Obviously, there are tons of different models of smartphones out there, but since I only have experience with the iPhone, I thought today I would share some apps that I've found really useful during the past 6 weeks of travel. Many of them are probably available on other platforms as well.

1. Inner Fence Credit Card Terminal (99¢)

This has been the best investment I've made on the whole tour outside of the iPhone itself. Quite simply, this lets you use your iPhone to accept credit cards at your merch table. You manually enter the credit card number, expiration date, amount, billing zip code, and the customer signs the virtual receipt on the screen using their finger. Payments are batch processed directly into your bank account and the customer receives a receipt via email. My band's merch sales have been through the roof this time around and a large part of that can be credited to our ability to accept credit cards. Note that this requires you to set up an account with Authorize.net and there is a somewhat convoluted sign-up/identity verification procedure before you can get started, but it's easy sailing after that. You pay a monthly fee to Authorize.net and they take a small percentage from each sale.

2. Siri, Inc. Siri Virtual Personal Assistant (FREE)

Touring entails a lot of showing up in unfamiliar cities and needing to find useful stuff. Whether it be restaurants, a place to get the oil in the tour van changed, a hotel, etc., there's a lot of stuff that can be a pain to find if you're not familiar with the area. Siri does all of this for you in a variety of ways, but it does a lot more, including grabbing location based weather forecasts, booking a taxi, checking flight statuses local events, etc. You can search for items by location, business type, business name, etc. Book tables at a restaurant, buy movie tickets, or send yourself reminders. This is a really helpful all-in-one app that makes finding what you need in an unfamiliar location and best of all it's free!

3. David J. Hinson's Cheap Gas! (FREE)

Fueling up your tour vehicle can be an expensive prospect. This handy app looks for gas stations near your current location and sorts them by price and the distance away from your current location. When you find a suitable station, you can locate it with the iPhone's built-in Map application and be on your way.

4. AllStays iExit ($2.99)
Touring the US involves a lot of travel on interstate highways. If you're looking for a hotel, a gas station, or a restaurant off the interstate, this app will make your life a whole lot easier. It finds your current location and lists all of the upcoming exits and what specific services and points of interest you'll find there. No more getting off at an exit and wasting your time only to find off there is nothing you need there. The only downside is that it occasionally doesn't think you're on an interstate when you are, but this is relatively rare.

5. TM Soft White Noise Lite (FREE)
Sleep is a rare commodity on tour, and many times, your surroundings aren't very cooperative when it comes to grabbing some shut-eye. White Noise Lite provides a handful of soothing sounds such as falling rain, chimes, background noise on an airplane, and plane old white noise that can mask the outside annoyances of loud hotel guests, snoring roommates, loud traffic, etc. A more full-featured paid version is also available that gives access to a much wider variety of sounds.

6. mint.com Mint (FREE)
Keeping track of your finances can be a challenge when on tour, but this app makes it a breeze. Simply sign up for a mint.com account, link the accounts you wish to track, and Mint does the rest, letting you keep tabs on your balances, how much your spending on what, and managing a budget. Very handy.

7. Expedia TripAssist (FREE)
Get discounted flights, hotel rooms, and vehicle rentals on the go.

Do you have any apps you've personally found useful when travelling? Share them in the comments!

3 comments:

Chris said...

Re: Mint-

The service is nice, but I loathe how they're already monetizing it.

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/03/14/personal-finance-online/

"For instance, he said, he can see pretty much in real time how much money his huge database of customers is, in aggregate, spending at Blockbuster vs Netflix vs Redbox, or any other set of retailers — and that kind of information would surely be extremely valuable to hedge funds. It was clearly something he’s talked a lot about, and he never said that he wasn’t already selling that data to the highest bidder."

Anonymous said...

Totally agree about TMsoft's "White Noise" app - I suffered from insomnia for years until I found this app, and since then it's mostly become a non-issue. I've been using the full version of "White Noise" fairly regularly now on my iPod Touch for about two years. Great app.

I suggest checking out AmbiScience's 3-in-1 first two bundle packs too (Bundle Pack 1 and Bundle Pack 2) for iPhone/iPod apps that are similar in effectiveness to White Noise but more synth-y and ambient in their audio style.

Cheers...

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