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Travel apps for your smart phone

These days, you aren't with it unless you have a "smart" phone. Whether or not it makes phone calls easily, at low cost, seems less important than what kind of pictures it takes, how well it Tweets and how many different applications you can stuff into it.

Here's a look at the 10 most popular free travel apps for the industry-leading iPhone (some of which are also available for other phone systems):

1. Google Earth: Displays Google's maps and satellite photos and provides for a range of search options and links.

2. Southwest Airlines: Puts you online for its "Ding" special deal alert system; you also can book reservations and do most of the other airline business you can do through the regular online site.

3. Yelp: One of the most comprehensive available compilations of restaurant reviews and information - and you can become a critic yourself.

4. Urbanspoon: Another source for locating restaurants and reading reviews.

5. Kayak: A popular online aggregator site for compiling and comparing airfares, hotel rates and car-rental costs from dozens of different suppliers and online agencies.

6. Wi-Fi Finder: Locates free wireless Internet service in "over 200,000 locations in 135 countries."

7. Cheap Gas!: Finds the cheapest gasoline prices closest to your location, then maps a driving route.

8. Open Table: Yet another restaurant resource - this one finds reservations for you at nearby eateries, plus gives you directions.

9. TripAssist by Expedia: No matter where you booked your trip, Expedia's app lets you view and track travel reservations. Includes options for real-time SMS text messaging and e-mail alerts for flight updates.

10. Restaurant Finder: Obviously, iPhone users are obsessed with finding the "right" places to eat.

Although the most popular, these sites are only the very small tip of a very large iceberg of travel apps - the Apple Travel Store (apple.com/webapps/travel) and Apptism.com list thousands of them.

Although iPhone seems to be leading the app pack, many of the outfits that provide iPhone apps also provide equivalent apps for other phone and PDA systems.

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