With applications turning smartphones into GPS units, ideal for finding restaurants, booking hotels, playing a favorite set of tunes as well as taking quality pictures and videos, bikers can squeeze a suite of electronics into one small device. The apparently endless list of things a smartphone can do makes it an invaluable tool and required accessory for any motorcycle ride.
Not only can the following five tips make sure bikers get more out of their smartphones, but also get more, longer.
1. Being smart with a smartphone
The most important tip is using smartphones safely. A well-placed cradle can put the smartphone squarely in a biker’s view, offering up the temptation to scroll through texts, check out Facebook feeds and cruise through a host of social media applications. But every moment a rider’s eyes are looking down at their phone, they’re not looking up at the road. Sure this tip sounds preachy, but common sense can quickly blow away with the riding wind as the road trip settles into the monotony of a long highway. Murphy’s Law clearly states something will run out or someone will cut in when a rider decides to pass the time by catching up on email.
2. It’s all about power
The great thing about smartphones is that they do so much but an unwanted feature, a dying battery leaves them doing absolutely nothing.
There are a few ways to make sure a smartphone lasts as long as the open road. Pocket chargers or battery packs small enough to fit into the pocket of a leather jacket or vest are inexpensive ways to charge a smartphone on the go. Some of the top-sellers on Amazon, with great reviews we might add, are Anker PowerCore+ mini, Jackery Bar Premium 6000 mAh External Battery Charger, Bestoss Cell Phone Portable Charger Power Bank and Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger.
Of course, riders who have a later-model motorcycle will enjoy a USB plug with the feature quickly becoming an industry standard. As well as connecting a library of music and contacts to the motorcycle for some clever results, it allows riders to enjoy a smartphone while in the saddle free of any worries over battery levels.
If riders find their smartphones are burning through more juice than the chargers or time on the road can deliver, they should look to the ‘low power’ option found in most newer operating systems. Called ‘Battery Saver’ on Android systems, used in LG, HTC, Samsung and Sony among others, it restricts certain functions to make the phone last longer. These measures won’t affect making calls or taking pictures, but navigation applications and those which use data such as internet access and messaging may run slower or not function at all. This article explains how to customize Android’s ‘Battery Saver’ mode which obviously should be set well ahead of any road trip.
While the ‘Low Power’ mode on the iPhone isn’t configurable, many of the systems and options disabled by the feature can be customized during everyday use, allowing riders to adjust their smartphone life away from ‘the grid’.
An ongoing and more manual system to conserve a phone’s power is to learn the habit of shutting down applications not being used. Both types of phones have their own methods of seeing just how many applications are running in the background, stealing away a smartphone’s precious power.
3. Don’t forget the memory
Regardless of which make or model of smartphone is in a rider’s pocket, they only come with a finite amount of memory and without planning, it can quickly fill up long before its time to head for home.
Some smartphones allow for memory cards to be swapped out and while that’s certainly an option, one not one available to a majority of smartphone owners. However, if a smartphone can have its memory easily upgraded, finding affordable cards online or in local sales should be bought, formatted and tested well ahead of any road trip.
However, even without adding or upgrading a smartphones memory, there are a few things to make sure every motorcycle memory can be saved. It’s amazing how much storage can be freed up simply by going through photos and videos that have accumulated on a smartphone, editing down and saving the ‘keepers’ to a computer.
Riders who find they’ve eaten through the available storage as quickly as they did the miles can turn to the magical and all-encompassing ‘cloud’.
There’s a lot of talk around regarding 'the cloud'. Although this is basically a rebranding of the internet and online storage, it comes with the advantage of new additional services and seamless interaction with said services. Google Drive, Dropbox and SugarSync are all services that will store data, such as photographs 'in the cloud' and free up space on your smartphone for even more memory-catching photos and videos. Each of the services give an initial amount of free storage space, it's a good idea to make sure this free 'starter pack' will be enough to accommodate all the pictures being taken before heading out for a trip. A handy application can sit on a smartphone to help with the transfers to the online storage space and is usually completed as easily as pressing a few buttons.
However, there is one more piece of homework if going this route of online storage. Transferring pictures and videos anywhere outside of a free wifi service such as those found in restaurants or hotels will eat into a cellphone’s data plan. A lot of pictures can mean a lot of data. By default, many apps will synchronize with online storage, uploading at a set time or when it detects new pictures. With this in mind, whatever app is used to transfer to an online storage should be set to only upload when told to do so.
Managing this process is also something to think about when posting to Instagram, Facebook, twitter or any other social media.
4. Not all apps are created equal
The ability to take pictures and record video comes built-in with every new smartphone, but that doesn’t mean those are necessarily the best applications to use.
Although some may feel smartphones compromise the opportunity to take quality photographs, a few well-spent dollars can bring priceless quality to motorcycle pics. It would be misleading to claim a smartphone will out-perform a mid-range or high-end camera bought for thousands of dollars, but the latest applications go a long way to offer the settings found on them. They give smartphone users access to manual camera features including adjustable settings for exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO, light metering, focus, and white balance. All of these in the right and knowledgeable hands can lead to some beautiful pictures.
The recommendations have their own learning curves, will help take incredible pictures but don’t offer filters, stickers or other social media alterations, fads or trends.
Options much? ProCam 4 has a host of features
5. Don’t forget to pack the apps
The previous tip shows most smartphones, and more importantly smartphones users, can benefit from additional applications.
Aside from taking better pictures, smartphones can be used to find available and affordable hotel rooms with just a few hours’ notice. Kayak, Hotel Tonight and Trivago aggregate available rooms being offered at discounted prices. Realizing they were losing business to these type of companies, most hotels have since created their own applications to make it easier to find and book rooms.
A few words of caution when using these applications. As reported by Clutch and Chrome in ‘Rewards For Motorcycle Road Warriors’, to cash in on any reward or loyalty programs, rooms need to be booked through the hotel and not one of the aggregate apps or websites. Also, usually there are no refunds on anything booked through the discount apps, so if any motorcycle mishaps happen along the way and you don’t make it to the hotel, any money paid for a room is essentially gone.
When using a navigation application such as Google, it’s good to get in the habit of downloading the route ahead of time. Saving an area from Google Maps to the phone and using it while offline is advice normally given to people heading to an area where the Internet is slow, mobile data is expensive, or it’s hard to get online. Bearing in mind the best rides are well away from cellphone towers, this practice can prevent bikers from getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
If other applications catch the riding eye, gas-finder apps and weather apps, they should be downloaded well-ahead of any road trip and tested on local rides.
Finally, entertainment. We understand no one rides to lightly-traveled back roads and beautiful, hidden corners to watch the latest sitcom or movie blockbuster. However, if there is room on your smartphone, downloading and storing them ahead of time avoids the temptation of digging into any data plan during those moments of boredom.
For bikers who’ve gotten into the habit of streaming their music, putting a few favorite albums or playlists of songs on the smartphone will prepare for gaps in cellphone coverage.
Great view, terrible cellphone coverage