Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Personal Electronics after SHTF, Part 3: Apple Apps

DZ, today's guest author, is a former Action Guy turned private investigator and bounty hunter who, in his own words, "isn't nearly as cool as he used to be."

Part 1 of this series may be found here.

Part 2 of this series may be found here.

First of all, my apologies for the long delay from part 2 to part 3 of this. I got caught up in all sorts of work stuff and let it slide.

Many thanks to David Blackard, who provided his recommendations for iPhone apps. For simplicity's sake I've cut and pasted some of his comments with minor editing for flow, which I guess makes this a joint article.

As with the Android post, I've focused on free apps. If you know of a paid app that could replace any of what I mention here, and is worth the price, feel free to extol its virtues in comments. Also, if you've used the paid version of any of the free aps I mention here, please do mention it, or message me and I'll update the article. The great thing about the free ones, though, is you can have multiple apps for the same general function and use whichever one you like for what you're doing.

There's not much to most compass apps. Some may be prettier than others, and maybe you prefer that or maybe you want something a little more stripped-down for simplicity of use. Keep in mind that a lot of other apps use the compass in the phone, so depending on what you want to use it for, you may not even want a dedicated compass app. Also keep in mind that you should still have a real compass and use it to calibrate the electronic one from time to time. I, for one, would not trust an electronic compass, tiny and surrounded by metal as it is, to remain calibrated under rough use. The iPhone has a standard compass app that was not very useable until a recent update. Since then, you no longer have to wave the phone in a Figure 8 to reset or activate the compass, just open the app and 'roll' the needle around the dial in a circle.

There's not really anything that you'd call a GPS app, just apps (usually maps) that use the GPS function. All that are applicable are covered in their respective sections.

Step Counter
If you're using one of these for fitness reasons (fitness is certainly important for preparedness, but I'm going to treat it as a separate issue for now), then you may have a preference for an app that keeps track differently or allows you to share your results with other apps or social media... whatever. But for grid-down navigation, all it needs to do is count steps, and they all do that. (Be sure to get your pace count and know how to use it, so that the app can help you concentrate on other things instead of counting.)

The choice of mapping apps that save maps for online use is huge, but most of them are oriented to street maps. One good option is All Trails, which has the ability to find local trails, log (GPS) where you went and then share your trip. The newest version has been improved by adding better descriptions. 5,000 of the country's most popular trails are listed, BUT if you have a favorite not found, hike it, plot it and send it in to be added!

A paid ($2.99) option: Pocket Earth This off-line map app covers the world (almost) with GPS and maps. I have no info for foreign use, but western US maps work very well. Allows active marking of routes, but battery life will be short if GPS is left running in the background.

Certainly your device came with a camera app already installed. I promise you that's good enough for most things you'd ever want to use it for. But if you must try others, just look around.

NFC Reader/Writer
As I type, Apple have just announced the iPhone 6, which finally includes an NFC reader. The phone will be released in September 16, so if you get one and try some of the NFC apps that are feverishly being written now, please let us know which are worth getting.

The sky is the limit here. Purchase or download as many movies or songs as you have space for. Sadly, since Apple phones and tablets don't have removable storage, you'll have to store them on a computer and transfer them as wanted, which greatly reduces the usefulness. (How to torrent.)  

Traditional games such as solitaire, chess, and checkers are all free, and here are some other games that will keep working after the grid goes down. Go find some you like and install them. They'll help keep you sane after SHTF.

Every Kindle book can be downloaded to your phone with this app. Many preparedness-oriented books, manuals,and pamphlets are also available as PDF files that can also be saved and read offline later by the Kindle app or others such as WPS Office. Beware! Keep your Kindle app updated. Otherwise, if they release an update just before SHTF and you don't have it, your app may stop working.

You can also use the iBooks app.

The new iPhone has also just added a pressure sensor, so as with NFC, let us know what apps work for you when they come out.


A note on battery life
Yes, you'll need to have a way to charge your phone, be it solar or manual (or off a generator if you have one), but the vast majority of the battery usage is in the various radios in a smartphone or tablet. Put it on airplane mode and it'll last much longer.

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