Recently I went travelling around Europe for almost 3 weeks. A complex endeavour featuring language issues, bookings and various methods of transport to catch. It all went smoothly thanks to the planning by my amazing wife.
It’s been a while since I travelled. Almost two whole iOS releases since I was last in Europe. There are new apps, old apps enhanced and new features in iOS to help get around. I thought it might be interesting to dive into what I took and how technology helped me keep anxiety at bay for 3 weeks in unfamiliar places.
Before I left I installed the iOS 16 Public Beta on my phone. Risky? Sure, but what’s the worst that could happen? (Do not answer that.) I really wanted to try out the new Focus Mode feature for travelling. This feature means you can set a Lock Screen, Home Screen’s and Watch face to change based on set conditions. I could set up a Focus Mode for travelling and another for relaxing. The travelling setup meant I could have the weather on my Lock Screen and Home Screen icon’s and widget’s specifically for the journey. Quick access to booking and travel apps. When relaxing I could set the Home Screen to only show me photo apps and hide everything else so I could, in theory, relax while using my phone.
You can take this further to mute notifications from certain apps and people, set custom widget’s on the Lock Screen and even hide email accounts or messages from people you want to avoid seeing while away. If you have separate work and personal email accounts you could hide the work stuff until you got home to save you accidentally bumping into something you feel obliged to look into. It allows you to properly disconnect. I’ve even seen that 3rd party Twitter app Aviary is adding support for Focus Modes so you can switch timelines when you switch modes. You could set up twitter to only show a set list while at work or on the beach. No noise, just positive vibes only filled with all the awesome sauce making them super tastycal… or something. (Hey the youth.)
If you want to know more about Focus Mode’s I wrote about them in my annual WWDC round-up.
My main app for travelling is Tripsy. It’s a travel itinerary app. Make a trip. Set the dates and anything you throw into the app between those dates is automatically added to the trip and organised by category. You can also share the app subscription with family members enabling you to all have access to important trip info and things you’d like to or see. You can forward booking and ticket emails to the app and it’ll pull out all the essential info. There’s even a Watch app that lets you show critical info right on your watch face.
This app is great because I could see a breakdown of our entire trip. What time is the next train? Where is it? What seats are we in? Contact info for hotels. We could be anywhere on our trip, open the app and see what cafés or restaurants are nearby. I spent some time before the trip searching for places I would feel comfortable to eat in as I have sensory issues with food. Instead of standing in the rain searching for somewhere, checking reviews and reading the menu I could happily open the app and see what I’ve already pre-approved. This is precisely what we did in Zurich and it worked perfectly.
iOS has a built-in translation app, but it doesn’t support Croatian. Google Translate did so I had both apps on my Home Screen. It occasionally worked when pointing the camera at something to get a translation. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel confident enough to use the Universal Translator feature which lets you have a conversation with someone in real time with the phone showing a translation as you speak. It seems remarkable but I was too nervous to try.
I took a laptop to store and edit photos on but I rarely used it. I’d hoped to backup all my photos each night into Adobe Cloud, but the Wi-Fi was generally too bad to do that. Instead, what I did was plugged the SD card from my Leica Q or Leica M240 into my iPhone via a USB dongle and import the photos onto my phone. I have a 256gb phone and that was just enough space for 2x 24mp camera RAW files and GoPro video and photos.
Thanks to advances in iOS you can now open Lightroom, connect a card and import directly to an album in Lightroom. Previously you would have to import to the Photos app, add them to a Lightroom album and finally delete them from the Photos app to save space. It was messy.
In doing this I backed up and edited 3 weeks worth of photography on my phone. I never used my laptop. I could have done this with an iPad but I always had my phone with me so I could download photos over dinner and attempt to edit them on the beach the next day… or so I thought. There were other issues that I’ll discuss later.
It is astonishing to think that I could go anywhere with just a phone, a 28 mm and 50 mm lens and get photos I’m happy with. I could cover architecture, art, and portraits (to a degree – big events would benefit from an 85 and 200 mm lens). After a job I could sit in a café with a coffee, edit and send to a client. All with phone and single camera. What a dream lifestyle that would be. Liberating. Assuming I could convince my brain not to overthink it all and worry that I could have done better if only I had extra stuff.
Shared Photo Library
Apple Shared Photo Library is a new feature that creates an entirely new photo library with all the features, benefits, and issues of a regular personal photo library. It’s much more powerful than a single shared photo album as they are restricted to image sizes around 2000—2500px. This Shared Photo Library is a fully featured library that you move photos to. Everyone in your family that you invite into it can edit, like and share to it. It can even go as far as automatically populating it with selfies of you and your family if it detects they are nearby when taking them or in the photo to save you having to remember to add them later. Take a photo with your partner and it shows up on their phone as if they just took it. It’s instant.
Unfortunately, the feature hasn’t shipped yet and is likely to be part of iOS 16.1, scheduled to launch at the end of October… maybe. Apple is having a few issues with other features so we’ll see.
Shared Safari Tabs
While I’m happy to install a late season Public Beta on my phone I don’t on my wife’s. Beta’s usually affect the phone battery and she enjoys Pokémon Go which is the destroyer of batteries. It would be selfish to add stress to her life just so I can play with a beta feature. So for that reason we were unable to try Shared Safari Tabs.
The feature allows you to create a set of tabs in Safari and then share them with family. You could create a specific set just for the holiday. Any tab they add you get to see and vice-versa. Great for planning activities.
You can even tie this into the Focus Mode feature so when you set a holiday focus mode it’ll switch to the shared tabs hiding your original tab set for later.
iPhone 12 Pro Max
I got the iPhone 12 Pro Max for its cameras and battery. Turns out the Ultra-wide camera is something I rarely use but the battery is. For travelling it’s great having a phone that will last all day, especially since that phone has all your documents in.
Annoyingly, either due to the heat or Adobe Lightroom, I couldn’t use my phone much on our trip. The screen constantly dimmed to prevent the device overheating. But with temperatures in the mid-30s my phone overheated and displayed a message telling me it needed to cool down. That was not why I bought this phone.
The screen dimming is due to thermal throttling. Running a big bright display uses a lot of power which generates heat. Electronics dislike heat so they try to compensate for it. There is nothing that can be done. No setting to change. All you can do is cool the phone off. You could argue that this is a “feature” that helps me disconnect while on holiday. But I wanted to sit on a beach sipping a beer and editing photos!
I’ve heard this is an issue on the iPhone 13 too. The iPhone 14 has some new features that may help with this. As climate change worsens maybe we won’t be using our phones on hot days by the beach?
So, that was travelling in 2022. The new iOS updates will be very useful as more app developers take advantage of features like Focus Mode. Translation apps will get better over time and hopefully I am able to confidently use them. I could in theory travel the world with 1 camera, a couple of lenses and my phone and be able to happily document my travels sharing stories online as I go. If money was no issue I’d have;
- iPhone 14 Pro Max w/ 512gb storage
- Leica M11
- Leica Summilux 28 mm & 50 mm f/1.4
A small neat setup that would let me do everything from astrophotography to portraits. It would be quite freeing, I think. No big heavy bag of stuff which is basically a metaphor for my anxiety. Just a small bag. Neat. Focused. Minimal.
Next time we travel my wife will have all the extra features I mentioned here and it’ll make our trips just that bit easier. Technology is great for people like myself with anxiety. I can pre-plan places I know I can eat in to reduce stress and do so in a way that leaves my ADHD photo brain open to the joy of exploration of new places. Something it needs to get good photos. Less anxiety. More “What’s that? Ooh, look at that!” These tools make life a little easier so I can focus on what’s important. Splashing about in the sea and exploring strange new worlds with my camera and wife.