I usually skip the data roaming when travelling, despite it being a lot more affordable these days. However, you don’t need to leave your technology behind – especially not your Windows Phone. There are a few ways to enjoy offline navigation, file access and reading on your device, even without the joys of mobile data.
1. Navigation on foot & car
Unless you’re a laze-in-the-resort type, you probably get out-and-about while visiting a foreign country. These apps should help:
HERE Maps & Drive
For the price of free (soon for non-Nokia users as well), Espoo’s mapping duo are tough to beat. Google Maps lets you save a small map area; HERE lets you download an entire country. And it’s awesome having Surfer Dude guiding you, like I did on a recent Australian road trip. The downloaded maps are also usable in some apps so long as the Developer has enabled it e.g. Caledos Runner.
Just be wary that some countries fall off the list for offline maps – Japan being a prime example.
2. Documents & Files
Ditch the guidebook! There are a few ways to keep your travel itineraries, booking confirmations and guidebooks on Windows Phone:
CloudSix for Dropbox
Rudy Huyn isn’t your regular Windows Phone developer – churning out acclaimed app after app, with his work going to be immortalised on the WP8.1 lock screen. His recent muse is cloud service Dropbox – and his app Cloud6 for Dropbox has just blown every other Dropbox client on WP8 away with one important feature: offline files. You will need to download each file once, but as long as you have enough space in the cache (Settings > Cache) and on your phone, those files will be there forever.
Aside from this, the app runs very smooth, you can mark folders and documents as Favourites for quick access, and Office documents can be opened directly from the app as well. Download the app here.
PDF Reader & Office
If you don’t use Dropbox, there are other ways to get the files offline – especially if they are PDFs or Office documents (Excel is a great itinerary and expense tracking tool). Any PDFs opened in Microsoft’s PDF Reader app are saved to the device by default, and Office documents can be saved to the phone as well, via the Office app – more on that here.
The free version of Evernote is heavily-reliant on an Internet connection, but premium users have a way out – they can select notebooks to be stored offline. It’s not too expensive to go premium, since you can just buy a 1-month plan for S$7 to cover your travel period. The story gets even better for StarHub and Samsung users.
Evernote was awesome for my travels, since I could share the whole notebook privately (premium) and grant edit rights to my travel companions. We kept just about everything – itineraries, e-mail booking confirmations and expense tracking.
Download the app here. To enable Offline Notebooks, go to Settings > Premium > Offline Notebooks.
3. Articles & Reading
Maybe you’re too cultured for Angry Birds, or maybe you don’t want the battery to go kaput within a few hours. Either way, bookworms can find solace in these apps:
The shopping giant’s roots are in books, so it’s no surprise they have a dedicated app for e-reading. Unfortunately the WP version is pretty barebones – no highlighting or dictionary here – but it does the job, and you can keep books offline for the long flight or train rides. Download the app here.
This is my favourite RSS reader app on any platform, period. None of the fancy-shmancy magazine flipping stuff – just brutally fast and lightweight news. A quick sync saves all the RSS articles for offline reading, and there are plenty other useful features.
Nextgen Reader comes in free and paid versions, the difference being added share and other options (do support the developer though, this app keeps on getting better and better, and it’s cheap). You can download it here. Just note though, not all RSS articles come parsed for reading, but for those instances, check out the following app…
I lamented the dearth of good Pocket apps on WP until Poki appeared – in fact, I actually prefer this app at times to the official Pocket app on other platforms. The design is gorgeous yet functional, with some of the developer’s personal touches: I like the article stats and badges, as well as the reading indicator – as you scroll down an article, a circular progress bar gets filled, showing you how much remains till the end of an article.
Poki saves up to 500 articles from your Pocket queue, and another 500 archived articles for offline reading. Make sure you let it sync before you leave the hotel! The app has a free trial, but is well worth the cash if you like Pocket.
Those are some of my favourite apps for going offline. There may be other apps out there I’ve missed out – do share in the comments or on Twitter @wasabigeek.