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October 14, 2010

Packing My Droid for Travel

My Verizon Droid isn't going to be able to communicate with cell towers in Europe; it uses CDMA technology and Europe is all GSM. But I've gotten dependent on the droid for lots of things including navigation. In most cases, there's an app for that - even two or three apps.

Let's start with navigation. My droid is now my GPS; its screen is plenty big enough. But it navigates using Google maps, which it downloads on the fly over my data connection to Verizon Wireless (VZW). Not going to have that connection in Europe. Googled "droid download maps", quickly found a few solutions, and downloaded a couple of them for good measure.

MapDroyd is free including a very good selection of international maps which I can download and save on my droid now while I'm still online. I need Sicily and they've got that. The trouble with MapDroyd is that it doesn't do turn-by-turn directions, say they plan to a future plus version which they'll probably charge for. Still, it could be a help so it's now installed on the droid.

CoPilot Live for the Android does do turn-by-turn and has downloadable apps. Its maps are expensive, though; the all Europe package is over $100 and'll take up a lot of space on my phone. There are supposed to be country-specific maps which are smaller and presumably cheaper; but it's not clear how to select them from the droid marketplace. I asked CoPilot Live tech support via email but haven't got anything but a robo-acknowledgement yet.

Don't know whether it counts as navigation but I downloaded Google's free Sky Mapfor good measure in case I find myself in a starship.

Calling over WiFi should be a good thing even when I can't connect to VZW (or maybe even when I can). The Skype application for droid is a disappointment. It does connect over WiFi in the US; but, if the call is domestic, Verizon charges you for it. You do save money if your calling another Skype user or if you're making an international call to a regular phone in which case you pay Skype and not VZW rates. Apparently, it won't call over WiFi outside the US so useless for calling home, which is exactly what I want to be able to do.

Fring looks like it may be the call-home answer. The app is free and can even make video calls fring-to-fring and supports free calls to SIP users. But not all my friends are SIPing nerds (if you don't know what SIP is, don't worry). FringOut supports calling ordinary phone numbers at a low cents per minute (one cent to the US, 1.7 cents to Italy); these are rates to landlines, though; it takes too much searching on the Fring site to find that mobile rates are much higher to countries outside North America where there is usually a mobile surcharge. I have an old phone that'll I get an Italian SIM for to make calling and texting locally cheaper.

Using WiFi instead of VZW. Wanted to make sure I will be able to use fring and send and receive email when I have a WiFi connection but am traveling out of range of VZW. Enabling WiFi on the droid was easy and logical. It found my home network right away and linked to it and through it with no trouble. Hopefully will do as well with networks with different security. It's not obvious whether your WiFi or VZW connection is being used when you have both, but I needed to know for testing purposes. Good trick is to go into airline mode which disables VZW, WiFi, and Bluetooth, then selectively re-enable WiFi. Fring and email and browsing DO work in this configuration. Phew. Consensus of the droid fora is that WiFi is used by most apps (but not Skype outside the US) whenever it's available, so enabling at home helps save you from going over the 5 gig "unlimited" limit on your droid.

Findle app. Came with my droid; enabled it by giving my Amazon account info. Downloaded a book I've been reading on Kindle. Opened right to the page I was reading on the Kindle. Cool!

Plans B and C. I will be taking my laptop which has built in WiFi and GPS so can use both of those; and I have a Skype account on that. Have an Ethernet cable, of course. Also have a couple of USB cellular modems I've accumulated into which I ought to be able to put SIMs to get prepaid cellular data in Italy. Have my real Kindle – the international edition. And Mary has her iPhone which does work in Europe (because at&t uses GSM) although at an outrageous price. I'll let you know how much I can rely on droid plan A.

Related posts:

Droid, Gmail, gSyncit, iPhone, Outlook, Mary and Me

Navigating on My Droid

Swyping from my Droid – The Supplement

This post was swyped on my droid

Droid Setup – Day 1 of My Re-Retirement

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