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Apps: Stay safe, save big on driving trips

iPhone, iPod Touch app for AAA TripTik Mobile

iPhone, iPod Touch app for AAA TripTik Mobile

Travel season is in high gear. If you plan to drive to your destination, allow these mobile apps to help you navigate every step of the way. Whether you are looking for cheap gas en route, want to share your travel experiences with others or just need the official rules for claiming car seats, we have the best apps to download for a perfect summer road trip.

AAA TripTik Mobile
(iPhone, iPod Touch, Android; free)

For those of you who will be driving through unfamiliar territory, we recommend the free AAA TripTik Mobile app. Like Gas Guru, TripTik maps out the nearest locations for things like rest stops, restaurants and campsites. One added bonus is the voice-activated turn-by-turn navigation that allows drivers to concentrate on the road while using the app. Members of AAA can also take comfort if the car starts making funny noises and belching smoke. No need to panic because the app can point members toward the nearest mechanic, or better yet, they can simply use the AAA roadside-assistance feature.

Gas Guru
(iPhone, iPod Touch, Android; free)

Developed by YellowPages.com, Gas Guru is the latest download-worthy app that gives you the lowdown on where to find the cheapest gas. Much like GasBuddy, the app that Time Magazine has called a must-have, Gas Guru helps you find gas stations nearby or along the route you will be traveling. The display of nearby stations is prioritized by either price or proximity, which lets you decide if saving an extra 10 cents per gallon is worth going that extra mile. But it doesn't stop there. Gas Guru not only provides directions and a phone number for the priced-out stations, it also lists nearby attractions like restaurants, coffee shops, mechanics, ATMs as well as roadside-assistance contacts.

Rules of Shotgun
(iPhone, iPod Touch; free)

Once you get your safety standards and road trip economics out of the way, the next big issue to tackle is who gets to sit in the front seat. If you are hitting the road with more than one friend or family member, avoid any infighting by becoming well-versed in the language of "shotgun." Download the free Rules of Shotgun app and remember: "The shotgunner must be in clear sight of the car"; however, "shotgun can be called regardless of whether the driver is in sight of the car."

State Lines
(iPhone, iPod Touch; $2.99)

Do you get frustrated when traffic laws vary from state to state? Know the rules of the road and more by downloading the State Lines app. It's full of information about each of the 50 states, including default speed limits, cellphone and texting bans, right-on-red rules, radar detector bans and more.

Best Western To Go
(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android; Free)

This official app from Best Western does a lot more than just help you find hotels and reserve rooms. It also lets you create a travel itinerary and then track your progress through notes and photo sharing. -- Appolicious.com, Tribune Media Services, Inc.

 

TECH TIPS

The write stuff
Cursing your typing skills every time you Google something? Try cursive instead. Google's new handwrite feature for smartphones and tablets allows you to use your finger to write search words longhand on a touch screen. Don't worry about fitting it in the little search box. You can jot it anywhere on the page. To see a "how-to" video from Google, go to bit.ly/google-handwrite.

Samsung bites into Apple
As Apple and Samsung battle in court over patents, Samsung has opened a big lead in the smartphone war. Research firm IDC says Samsung, sparked by its Galaxy S3 model, accounted for 33 percent of all smartphones shipped in the second quarter, up from 17 percent a year ago. Apple, hurt by the lull before its iPhone 5 debuts, had a 17 percent share, down from 19 percent.

Name that tune
If a Justin Bieber song sounds like a Lady Gaga tune, your ears aren't playing tricks. A high-tech analysis of a million pop songs from 1955 to 2010 found that "homogenization" of melodies and tone quality causes recently produced music to sound similar. The study, published in "Scientific Reports," also noted the "growing loudness" of pop music, mainly because today's songs are recorded at a higher volume. -- Peter King

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