Google Maps for iPhone

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Just tried the new Google Maps for iPhone. My first test was with the public transportation option for directions from my local coffee shop in Boulder, CO to my home.  The results were very good and the most impressive segment using RTD had the correct bus times and the SKIP bus actually showed up on time. This going to make getting around Boulder with RTD and my Eco Pass much more convenient. You can download the app here.

Movistar iPhone Mexico

Note: the following iPhone information is for unlocked iPhones and the Mexican prepaid costs are all as of December 2012. I have found two decent options when traveling in Mexico with my Verizon iPhone. The first option is available as soon as you land in Mexico via a delivered text message from your carrier. You can easily purchase 100MB of data for $25, billed automatically through your Verizon account. That’s not much data for $25 (about 10 times the normal global rate for 1GB of prepaid data), but, if you are planning to only check emails during your trip it might be right for you. No SIM card modification hassles and you only have to reply “yes” to Verizon’s soliciting text message. This data offer is the same for traveling in Canada. You might want to reset your cellular data usage counter to monitor your meager 100MB allowance. If you need calling in Mexico (including calling the USA) then you can try Mexico’s discount carrier Movistar. They offer prepaid minutes at very reasonable rates. Verizon’s Mexico minutes are around $1 plus per minute, while Movistar minutes are less than 8 cents a minute (more if you call to the US). With prepaid calling you just run out of minutes, no bill surprises, and with international calling rates there are always strange extras on your monthly bill. On an average week long Mexico visit, I usually spend less than $10 per visit with Movistar. Switching over to a local Mexican carrier isn’t without challenges; including getting a Movistar SIM in your iPhone. There are now three possible SIM card sizes. If you’re lucky, the local SIM will fit your SIM slot without modification. The standard SIM card and micro SIM can be trimmed, the newest nano SIMs may need trimming and sanding to create a slimmer card.

iPhone Prepaid Canada

Two years ago prepaid iPhone options didn’t really exist for tourists traveling to Canada. In August of 2012 prepaid options for smartphones are now readily available. Roger’s Pay as you go wireless plans will cost you $35 for 100MB of data or $45 for 500MB and includes the cost of the SIM card. If you used your iPhone for limited voice or texting during your Canadian visit, those calls will be deduced from your prepaid balance. Telus is another Canadian carrier option with rumored superior coverage outside of Canadian cities. It’s has a 3-tiered prepaid wireless plan as follows: $45 for 100MB data, $60 for 500MB, and $65 for 1GB. The above amounts all include Telus’ more expensive $35 SIM card. If I was planning a longer trip to Canada, I would probably purchase the Telus prepaid plans over the Roger’s plans, as they offer more data and a better rural network. Roger’s would work for shorter trips, where you are spending most of your time in cities. These prepaid wireless plans basically work for email and limited web browsing, so you might want to reset your cellular data usage in your iPhone/iPad’s Settings>Usage>Cellular Usage to monitor your prepaid usage. Another option for US Verizon customers is buying international roaming data at $25 per 100MB from Verizon Global. This wireless option only works for data but could work for a shorter visit to an international destination. The pitfall of this option, is that Verizon has your billing information and should you use more than 100MB of data (which is not much), you are charged another $25 for each additional 100MB. The local Canadian prepaid carriers just shut you down when you burn through your prepaid credits, so using international roaming is still potentially very expensive for US Verizon customers.

TIM Telecom Italy

I have a friend traveling in Italy this month and trying Italy’s TIM telecom prepaid. They have a promo now for 9 euros that gives you 30 days of unlimited data, texting, and 5 euros of voice credits. If you are planning to call back to North America you’ll need to add more voice credits. Perfect for a trip to Italy. Seems like local European carriers have dropped their prepaid rates by approximately 50% since last year (or Italy really is tanking). Another friend used Verizon’s global data ($25 for 100MB data) in Canada this month, another reason to avoid AT&T’s and Verizon’s international plans.

Via Michelin Mobile

Michelin’s European road atlases are now available with the Via Michelin Mobile apps for iOS and Android. Michelin’s road atlases are in my opinion the best road maps for cycling in Europe. Graphically, I prefer Michelin’s relief shading, it allows you to put together great cycling itineraries. Michelin maps highlight (in green) scenic roadways which you should consider riding. Google Maps do not provide this information, and in many cases, the scenic classification also means; safer roads with less traffic. With a WIFI connection, or better yet, with a cellular connection you can have all of Michelin’s road atlases on your smartphone or tablet device. Michelin’s app maps display like it’s printed maps and have adequate resolution with close-up magnification. The app is free, but if you want to use the maps in realtime on the road, you will  need to purchase about 2GB of prepaided data from a local European carrier. Normally, this would cost about 20 Euros with a local European carrier. The Michelin app works similar to Google’s Maps including; GPS pin-pointing your location and purple-colored plotting of your desired routes (see below: Configuring your route and Route overlay). Your routes are automatically logged in a historical panel within the app for easy future retrieval. Your routes can be calculated relative to car, moto, bike, or hiking travel time. Michelin estimates that bike riding Passo di Gavia would take you 3:05, but if you were on a Ducati moto (think crotch-rocket), the same route would only take 1:15 or as I have witnessed: way less at 180 KPH. When you zoom into a desired map location, the app switches to a Google-style flat map, which is detailed enough to show buildings and dock structures. When you zoom out, you can see a nice relief-style map. My biggest complaint with Google Maps on an iPhone is the lack of a relief style map. An Apple rumor is that they are not updating Google Maps and are developing their own mapping technology. The Via Michelin app includes other areas of the world, but the better; visually-descriptive maps seems to be only available in European countries. All you need when riding from Paris to Istanbul.