The 7 hottest travel tools coming to your iPhone, other Apple devices
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Each year Apple uses its Worldwide Developer Conference to unveil the latest updates to its operating systems powering your iPhone, iPad, Mac and more.
Monday’s keynote was the first-ever held virtually, but that didn’t stop the company from announcing some new features that will benefit travellers. We’ll dive deep into seven of the top travel-related improvements Apple just announced, which should get us all excited for the fall when the new software is released to the public (and we’re hopefully all travelling again).
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For globetrotters, this is big. Apple’s newest iPhone app, called Translate, is the perfect companion for your next international trip (whenever that may be). Translate helps you seamlessly converse with someone speaking a different language.
All you need to do is tap the microphone button and start speaking. The phone will intelligently arrange your spoken text on the appropriate side of the screen and then translate — and speak — your words to the person next to you.
Translate will support 11 languages at launch (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish), with more likely to be added in future releases.
The best part about Translate is that you can enable a totally offline experience after downloading your desired languages. This both keeps your conversation private, but also reduces how much (expensive) international data roaming you need to consume.
And if you’re simply browsing a website in a foreign language, Safari can now translate that site in seven different languages, making it easier to browse while out and about.
Related: Best translation apps for travelling
Home screen widgets
If you swipe left on your iPhone’s home screen, you’ll find a slew of widgets with bite-sized information from some of your favourite apps like Calendar and Weather.
Widgets are incredibly useful when you’re on the road. Airlines can provide flight status and other timely notifications (like boarding) at a glance without needing to open the native app. Hotels can provide a quick look at your upcoming stays.
And with today’s unveiling of iOS 14, widgets will be customizable on the home screen, making for easy access to the info you need most. I’ll definitely add travel-related widgets to my screen ahead of my upcoming trips.
If you’re like me, you probably have a page of icons on your iPhone that’s buried all the way at the end with lots of apps that you’ve downloaded for one-time use when travelling. Among many, this includes local restaurant reservation apps, international food delivery services and scooter rentals.
Aside from the fact that it takes (expensive) international data to download many of these apps, the odds of me needing to use them again once I’m back home are slim to none.
That’s where App Clips, a new feature in iOS 14, comes to the rescue. When you’re faced with a situation where you need to download an app for renting a bike or paying for parking (and more), you’ll soon be able to download just a part of the full app to accomplish whatever task you need. It’ll save you storage space, data and a whole lot of work.
Apple Maps have really come a long way since its launch in 2012. With the newest software, Apple Maps will show you curated guides for places to eat, shop and explore in some of the world’s largest cities. When I travel, I often turn to TPG’s guides to visiting a particular city, and with iOS 14, I’ll be able to find more recommendations on my iPhone. Plus, they’ll auto-update when new places are added or others go out of business.
Another useful new Maps feature is the addition of cycling directions that should make it easier to get around town on two wheels. Time will tell if Apple’s algorithms are as robust and widely available as Google’s, but I certainly look forward to taking it for a spin.
Digital car keys
If Apple has its way, car keys could become a thing of the past. And that’s a great thing for travellers.
For one, if you head out of town, you can digitally and securely share your car key with a friend or family via iMessage. And you can revoke access to your car when you return. All without physically dropping off your keys or hiding them under the back wheel.
And I can imagine that some rental car companies will want to adopt this technology too. This way, companies like Hertz and National can stop worrying about renters accidentally forgetting to drop off car keys, all while making the rental process more seamless for users.
If you use multiple Apple devices, you probably find it cumbersome to have to reconnect your AirPods to each device as you transition from watching a movie on your iPad to listening to a podcast on your iPhone. With iOS 14, you’ll be able to seamlessly move between your devices — and your AirPods will come along without needing to toggle any buttons.
This is great for travellers who may be trying to multitask while inflight or on the road. Speaking of multitasking, iOS 14 also offers picture-in-picture mode to allow you to continue watching a video or a FaceTime call while using another app. So you can stay connected while you’re following along with something else.
If you’re an Apple Watch user, there’s a good chance you might’ve requested sleep tracking as the next feature to come to your wrist. (Apple did mention that its one of the most requested features.) In the newest watch software, Apple is granting your wish. With intelligent sleep tracking and scheduling, you’ll get insights into your sleep patterns and alerts about going to bed and waking up.
This should be a welcome improvement for travellers who want to actively combat jet lag and track their sleep on planes and when travelling across timezones. Armed with sleep data, you can make assessments for how to best adjust your sleeping patterns when travelling.
It isn’t yet clear how much battery the sleep-tracking feature will consume, but Apple is promising to deliver smart notifications about whether you need to charge before bedtime or when waking up. (Hopefully, the next Apple Watch will have a bigger battery to support all-day and all-night usage.)
As a traveller, I’m excited about some of Apple’s newest features in its latest operating systems. My iPhone is always by my side when on the road, and with iOS 14, it’s only getting more powerful.
I’ll be able to translate conversations in real-time (without cellular data) and App Clips will make it much simpler to accomplish basic tasks like renting a scooter or ordering delivery.
There’s so much more, but I’m now excited for the fall when the software will be available — and we’ll hopefully all be travelling again.
All photos courtesy of Apple.