If you're using an upcoming trip as a great excuse to buy a new phone, there are several things you need to look out for. Traveling puts extra stresses on both us and our technology, and aspects that don't matter so much back home become important once you hit the road.
These six features will all make your smartphone a more useful, reliable companion on your next vacation. Don't expect to find all of them in any one phone, but pick the ones most important to you when making your purchase.
Must-Have Smartphone Features for Travel
Long Battery Life
If you think your phone doesn't last long enough in everyday life, just wait until you're traveling. Between using it for navigation, photos and video, entertainment, and more, and being out of reach of a power socket for many hours at a time, that battery icon will be flashing red sooner than you thought possible.
Look for a phone with a battery rated to last a day and a half or more under "normal" conditions. That might be just about enough to get you through a travel day exploring a new city, or a lengthy layover or two. Larger phones often have a longer-lasting battery, but not always.
Weather and Impact-Proofing
Rain, humidity, impact, dust, dirt, sand. They sound like the makings of a good adventure trip, but they're part of many other vacations as well. Unfortunately, while you may like some or all of them, most smartphones don't like any of those things at all.
Given how important your phone is when you're traveling, the last thing you need is for it to get wet, corroded or dropped, and have it rendered useless. While there aren't many devices with good protection from the elements, there are a few that'll keep running long after the others have given up the ghost.
No matter how good your battery life is, there will come a time during your travels when your phone goes flat at an inconvenient time. Some phones can take four hours or more to fully charge, which is very unhelpful if you've only got an hour or two within reach of a power socket.
Fortunately, new "fast charging" technologies have appeared in recent years, where a combination of special chargers and technology built into the phone allow a few extra hours of battery life with just ten minutes of charging and to hit full capacity within an hour. This can make a huge difference during layovers, or if you've only got a short time back at your hotel before you need to head out again.
With cameras having more megapixels, and high-resolution video becoming the norm, it's getting easier than ever to burn through the storage on most smartphones. 16GB of space is no longer enough, and even 32GB can get quickly used up with all the apps, entertainment, photos and videos we're now keeping.
Rather than paying for extra expensive storage when buying your phone, or having to buy a whole new one when you run out of space, consider purchasing a device with a micro-SD slot to add cheap storage cards later. While many phones have done away with this super-handy feature, there are still a few that include it.
While phones with slots for two SIM cards have been common in Asia for years, it's only recently they've started to make an appearance in the US.
This feature is extremely useful for travelers, as it lets them keep their usual SIM installed from home to receive calls and texts on their usual number, while also installing a SIM card from the country they're currently in to get cheap local calls, data, and SMS.
Optical Image Stabilization
Smartphone cameras have improved dramatically in recent years, but most of them still struggle in low light, or when shooting fast-moving video. Realizing this, a few manufacturers have started including Optical Image Stabilization features in their phones, which significantly reduce the effect of shaky hands and quick, jerky movements.
It's a feature that requires dedicated hardware in the phone, so don't expect to see it in budget models. Where it exists, however, you'll get noticeably better images in challenging conditions, without any extra effort.