Apps

6 apps that help make travel stress-free

Don’t leave home without these!

Photo by Ross Sneddon

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In this crazy-busy world we live in, we often find ourselves in need of an escape. Travel provides that for me. Going away for a bit of a break is an absolute necessity. There’s nothing like coming back refreshed and ready to take on the stress brought by daily life — both the challenging and the mundane parts of it. Sometimes, however, the thing that’s supposed to help you de-stress can be the cause of it too. Planning and the actual journey just to get to your destination (and even coming home) can be pretty stressful.  

Years of traveling has taught me a couple of things to make trips like this easier both on my wallet and my stress levels. In a previous article, we discussed how to save money while traveling. This time, we’ll be talking about apps that help keep the stress away. Being ready and planning ahead is half the battle for any journey. Having these six apps on your phone will make sure you’re more than ready for it.


PackPoint

I’ve been using PackPoint since 2015. Back when we were still living in Kuala Lumpur, one of my friends who traveled often recommended it to me and it has been part of my life ever since. At that time, my husband and I were about to go visit my family in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Malmö with side trips to Paris, London, and Geneva. It was a three-week trip and I was going nuts with planning what to bring.

That friend saved me by introducing me to this app that comes up with a digital packing list that you can consult on the go. All you have to do is enter the place you’re going to along with the dates. It will then ask you what the trip is for (business or leisure?) and a few other basic questions. It will then give you your personalized packing list — from clothing to your electronics. Packpoint just figures everything out for you, making those days before a trip a little less stressful.

Spotted by Locals

When visiting a new place, we often make time to see the historical highlights. But what happens when you’re done with those? I always make sure I visit an interesting establishment, a café, or even a restaurant that’s local-approved. More authenticity, less overpriced. I often consult Spotted by Locals for this.

The app collates recommendations from locals in the city you’re visiting — from places to grab food in to interesting and alternative sites to see. Even though I live in Berlin, I make it to a point to look through this app for some recommendations here and it never disappoints. I often find something that piques my interest, like this GDR Cinema I plan to visit next week.

Google Maps

What I see on Spotted by Locals, I always save here on Google Maps. The option to save places on different lists such as “Favorites” or “Want to Go” is such a blessing for people like me who need to organize absolutely everything — even my thoughts and my eating plans. Whenever I feel hungry and I don’t know where to go, I just open it up and see the places that I’ve saved on my “Want to Go” list and pick the ones nearest to me. It solves the problem of having to keep going back and forth with your friends, deciding where to eat.

City Mapper

 

While Google Maps can already provide you with transportation options to get to where you want to go, City Mapper is an app I keep for more options. You get your usual routes via walking, taking the train and bus, or even driving there, but you also get ride-sharing options. It even tells you where the nearest Mobike (bike-sharing app) is so you can exercise a bit by cycling your way there.

Flio

I absolutely hate signing up for Wi-Fi in airports. The questionnaires just seem to go on forever, I end up wondering whether they will be asking me for my medical history next. Flio lets me sign in hassle-free. It also keeps my flight information, helping me keep track of my schedule and making sure I never miss a flight while browsing the Duty Free makeup aisle.

Flio also tells you which restaurants and shops are at the airport while giving you vouchers for them. We all know dining in airports can be pretty expensive so a discount is always welcome. Your phone’s battery running low? It also tells you where you can charge within the airport so you can keep posting stories on Instagram.

Google Translate

Save yourself the trouble of miming your way to get information. This app can translate a conversation as you go. Another fun feature is the camera which lets you snap a photo of signs and labels. It will then scan the photo for words and all you have to do is highlight the ones you need translated and press on the blue arrow. Et voila! You now know the flavor of jam you have inside that jar. This is such a lifesaver when grocery shopping abroad or looking at posters and announcements in a foreign language.

Got favorites of your own? Share them in the comments below! Would love to discover new apps that I can use in my next trips!

Apps

Google wants to assists users without depending on the Internet

And Google Pay just got more exciting!

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Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.

Google Assistant

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?


A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.

Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.

Google Pay

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.

Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.

The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.

New AI Lab

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.

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Apps

SIM card vulnerability puts your sensitive information at risk

It’s called the SIMjacker

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SIM cards are very important. However, a new SIM card vulnerability found out by AdaptiveMobile Security might be putting our information at risk. The Simjacker exploit, which was recently found out and still being investigated on, allows malicious hackers to steal sensitive information from your phone through a SIM card.

Mechanism of attack

Infographic explaining the attack using Simjacker vulnerability | Photo by Simjacker.com

How does the Simjacker vulnerability work?


First, a hacker sends a malicious code to your phone through SMS. Then, the malicious code is read directly by your SIM card. The code then causes the [email protected] browser to send sensitive information to an accomplice device through SMS.

According to the report pulished by AdaptiveMobile Security regarding the vulnerability, the [email protected] browser is found on most SIM cards even though its development was abandoned many years ago. [email protected] browser was never updated, so it carries the risk of sending sensitive information to hackers when exploited successfully.

Sensitive information retrieved and transmitted by the [email protected] browser include location and the IMEI of an exploited device. The IMEI is a shorthand for International Mobile Equipment Identity, which is a 15 digit number unique to your smartphone that has some information about your device including its brand and model. As such, hackers can determine your exact location if you have a compromised SIM card, regardless of what device you have.

And the worst part of the attack is that you have no way of knowing that it has already been done since it all happens within the SIM card.

Origin and scope of the attack

The purpose for carrying an attack varies. However, the report traces the origin to an unspecified private company that works with governments to monitor individuals. So, there is a real possibility that it has been used to spy on us. And rightly so, since specific individuals were targeted in a certain country.

The report also warned that over one billion smartphones across all continents could be at risk to the vulnerability — and you could be one of them.

Response to the attack

In response to the discovered vulnerability, industry association SIMalliance has already put up recommendations for network providers to secure their networks. At this point in time, you can’t do anything to secure yourself from the vulnerability, unless you decided to go SIM-free.

But as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t just give your smartphone number like a free lunch. It also pays to update your smartphone once in a while, since some updates are designed to secure your phone from these kind of vulnerabilities and attacks.

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Apps

Apple TV+ launches with ridiculously low pricing

It’ll be free for a year for some users

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Apple has announced that it will begin streaming some of its original content for Apple TV+ starting November 1 for US$ 4.99. The subscription price is extremely affordable and meant to undercut rivals like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney.

It will additionally be available through tv.apple.com on the web, select 2018, 2019 and newer Samsung smart TVs, and on Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and VIZIO platforms in the future.


Apple TV+ is expected to launch in over 100 countries, with up to six members to share one subscription at no extra cost. To lure more users, purchasing a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV in the coming weeks will get you a one year of subscription for free.

The service is launching with a panoply of star-filled titles, including Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in The Morning Show and Hailee Steinfeld’s drama series Dickinson.

Apple named nine total titles that would be available at launch on Apple TV+. “All of these incredible shows for the price of a single movie rental,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday on stage.

Though, critics say Apple’s offering isn’t actually comparable to the competition because they also have tonnes of licensed TV shows and movies. Focusing on original production is just a part of it and brands like Netflix have invested heavily in getting exclusive rights to many blockbuster creations.

Apple TV+ is in-line with the company’s attempt to monetize its virtual offerings. Instead of completely relying on hardware for revenue, Apple is slowly amping up its subscriptions models. Right now, other products include Apple Music, Apple News+, iCloud, and Apple Arcade.

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