The Top Smartphones For International TravelersWednesday, November 06, 2013 Mary Anne Velasco
While 3G, 4G and even planned-for futuristic 5G international calling networks are now the norm for connecting on mobiles across the distance, traveling across borders with a smartphone can still be a daunting task to get started on. But for business travelers, adventure-seekers, and anyone who wants to stay in touch with home while on-the-go, a smartphone is essential to getting where you need to go safely for the right amount of money in the right currency, deciphering language issues, checking out local hot spots on the web, and accessing email with hotel confirmations and important work documents. Few phones can do all of those things well away from their home turf, but the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One not only travel well, but come with special features that make international traveling an exotic breeze.
For starters, the ubiquitous fifth generation iPhone. But what makes it more than just a great device and kicks it into the realm of a stellar sidekick for travelers? The Touch ID fingerprint system. The circular button reads your deep skin fingerprint as you begin using your phone, so that no matter where you are, your data is secure. If you’re a business traveler with a phone chock-full of company reports, confidential information and the like, you’ll know that no passcode can keep a determined criminal out. But can a fingerprint? Yes. According to these safety and accuracy reports for the iPhone 5s, yes. It’s worth it on this account alone, and the iCloud, iOS sleek new user interface, and App store for figuring out what’s around you all add to the bundle.
The HTC One, available at O2, sports a ultra-megapixel camera for great travel snaps, a super-fast processor for browsing on-the-go, and is a conversation starter to boot. John Quain, tech writer and traveler, did some experimenting with various phones abroad and found that with the HTC One, even dining alone in Amsterdam became a show-and-tell experience as people wanted to know what phone he was so casually scrolling through at dinner. It’s a sexy attention-grabber, no doubt, but with its Android abilities to download scores of travel guides and destination information in various apps. There’s even a feature called Zoe, which allows adventurers to capture 3-second clips of travel moments and patch them into a pretty video to show to your jealous mates at home.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 picks up the rear, with its incredible array of bells and whistles and human-like ability to attune itself to your audio, visual and display needs at all times. If you’re traveling with the S4 through a crowded city, the sound will optimize so that you can hear clearly but not damage your ears in the process; and on a quiet plane, the sound will go down to its lowest pleasant level. The S Translation feature is what makes the S4 a no-brainer travel buddy. You can say or type text into the S4, translate it into English, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese or Korean, and have the phone speak it or write it out so you can practice on the locals. This handy feature is as helpful as having a travel guide or local friend along with you who speaks the language and helps you to learn it, and can transform a difficult communication setting into a learning opportunity. As a bonus, the phone also comes in an Active version which is waterproof, rubberized, and rugged as the open road - perfect for scuba-diving vacations or business trips in the rainy season alike.
Other things to keep in mind when taking your phone out of the country are watching out for the roaming charges - have a clear understanding with your provider before you depart, and remember that some companies charge heavily for data, too. To avoid this, unlock your phone and get a local SIM card if you’ll be somewhere for quite a while.