Thank you for subscribing!
Got it! Thank you!

Best Smart Phone Apps for Business and Frequent Travelers

Fly through our top picks for the most useful and reliable apps -- and get where you need to go faster.

Soldiers may keep America free, but it's our nation's road warriors who keep our nation's economy strong. To help the troops in Operation Economic Rebound, we vetted the most popular mobile applications for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry platforms.

Fly through the top picks for the most useful and reliable apps -- and get where you need to go faster.

FlightView Elite

Purpose: Track any commercial flight departing from, or arriving at a U.S. airport.
Greatest strength: Check real-time flight status from the same information provider that major airports and airlines use. Great for locating an incoming plane that's late to show up at your gate, using an in-air tracker map.

Tragic flaw: Hogs your battery.
Offline? Reports last known flight information while offline.
Versions: Basic flight search functions (but not the above-mentioned perks) are available in free- and no-advertisement ($0.99) versions.

Get it:
Find FlightView Elite in iTunes App Store, $4.
Find FlightView Elite in Android Market, $4.
Find FlightView Elite in Blackberry App World, $5.


Purpose: Manage your reservations.
Greatest strength: E-mails you about delays, cancellations, gate changes, and baggage claim news, after you feed it your confirmation e-mails. Unlike rival apps TripIt and TripDeck, TripCase includes flight status alerts and listings for alternate flights with available seats in its free version.

Tragic flaw: TripCase won't let you change most of your hotel and other trip details on the go, requiring you to instead visit its website -- as other, similar apps also demand.
Offline? Data connection is only needed when receiving and sending updates.
Upgrade option: Pro version adds flight alerts by SMS, airplane seat maps, and a flight schedule look-up tool, with a free trial offer running until at least March 31, 2011.

Get it:
Find TripCase in iTunes App Store, free.
Find TripCase in Android Market, free.

Find TripCase in BlackBerry App World, free.

Taxi Magic

Purpose: Book a taxi in a major U.S. city.
Greatest strength: Linked to taxi dispatch computers, this app can reserve a taxi, track its arrival, charge the trip to a credit card, and issue a receipt for an expense report.
Tragic flaw: No accountability if the promised taxi fails to show up.
Offline? No
Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find Taxi Magic in iTunes App Store, free.
Find Taxi Magic in Android Market, free.
Find Taxi Magic in BlackBerry App World, free.


Purpose: In-car navigation.
Greatest strength: Many smartphones deliver point-to-point, GPS-based directions, but TomTom's app stands out for using speed data collected from millions of users to estimate your travel time accurately. The company also claims it provides seven times more traffic updates than its rivals.
Tragic flaw: You'll need a dock to mount your iPhone on the car windshield, sold separately (from $25 on Amazon).
Offline? Requires data connection to load up maps and directions and to receive traffic updates.

Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find TomTom in iTunes App Store, $49.99.


Purpose: Find pharmacies, coffee shops that have Wi-Fi, and other places of interest near you.
Greatest strength: Aloqa (derived from "always be a local") excels at delivering relevant recommendations at your location, which it determines by using your phone's GPS signal. Select which types of businesses you're interested in discovering. Aloqa has higher average customer ratings than better-named rivals Yelp and AroundMe, and it has been downloaded more than a million times.

Tragic flaw: You need to remember to shut it off so that it doesn't drain your battery.
Offline? Needs a data connection.
Upgrade option: No.

Get it:
Find Aloqa in iTunes App Store, free.
Find Aloqa in Android Market, free.
Find Aloqa in BlackBerry App World, free.


Purpose: Book confirmed restaurant reservations, search by cuisine, average price, reservation time, or customer reviews.
Greatest strength: The app uses your GPS location to point out real-time availability for seating at nearby spots at more than 15,000 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, England, and Ireland.

Tragic flaw: Can only search by one neighborhood at a time.
Offline? No.
Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find OpenTable in iTunes App Store, free.
Find OpenTable in Android Market, free.
Find OpenTable in BlackBerry App World, free.


Purpose: Swap contact information, calendar appointments, and other data, with others.
Greatest strength: It's 2011: Why are you still stacking up business cards that you collected at a meeting and typing their details into your contact database? Use this app instead. Swap details by knocking your hands against each other while holding your phones.

Tragic flaw: The other person's device needs to be running Bump, too, and have an accelerometer (as iPhones and Droids have).
Offline? No. An Internet connection is needed through WiFi, 3G, or Edge. (Bluetooth is not involved.)
Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find Bump in iTunes App Store, free.
Find Bump in Android Market, free.


Purpose: Call long-distance for free or cheap.
Greatest strength: Place free calls to Skype users worldwide. Video-chatting is free, too. Call non-Skype numbers worldwide at cheaper rates than most international calling plans offer.

Tragic flaw: The app's a bandwidth suck, so you better have a generous data plan.
Offline? No. (FYI: Skype's video chat works with a 3G connection -- not merely over Wi-Fi, as Apple's similar FaceTime tool requires.)
Upgrade option: No.

Get it:
Find Skype in iTunes App Store, free.
Find Skype in Android Market, free.
Find Skype in BlackBerry App World, free.


Purpose: Book a hotel at the eleventh-hour in a major U.S. city without paying an expensive rack rate.
Greatest strength: Book a one-night stay at the last-minute, defined as reserving on the same day of check-in -- sometime between early afternoon and late in the evening. The app lists hotels in three categories: hip, basic, and elegant. Its rates are typically much cheaper than the same-day ones posted on online travel agencies.

Tragic flaw: So far, the app only sells hotel rooms in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Offline? Only effective when it has a data connection.
Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find HotelTonight in iTunes App Store, free.

Cortado Flight Mode

Purpose: Grab all of your e-mails quickly before a flight.

Greatest strength: Press one button on the app to shut down your BlackBerry before your flight takes off, and the app will download all of your as-yet-unread e-mails from the past 24 hours. Then, continue reading e-mails once the flight attendant allows you to turn your device back on.

Tragic flaw: Doesn't download e-mail attachments.
Offline? Needs a data connection to do the downloading work.
Upgrade option: None.

Get it:
Find Cortado Flight Mode in BlackBerry App World, $2.

Sean O'Neill has covered practical travel strategies full-time for five years. Follow him on Twitter at @sean_oneill.