Off the Grid: Apps that Work Offline

Nerd student with an old mobile phone

When I read this story about a hacker who spied on the emails of a journalist through in-flight wifi at 30k feet, I shuddered. It just underlines the numerous risks that we take when we log into public wifi — even the wifi we pay for that seems legit.

The problem is that so much of what we do with our phones requires us to be online: social media, maps, messaging. If we’re not connected to the grid, we can’t function, right?

Well, almost. Here are a handful of really handy apps that you can use even when you’re not connected.

  • Google Maps
    Have you ever lost your signal in an underground garage and couldn’t figure out how to get out? Well, maybe that only happens to me, but Google Maps can help. Late last year Google made its map app more functional on both Android and iOS by upgrading its offline capabilities.
  • FireChat
    Using a concept it calls “mesh networking,” FireChat lets people bounce signals from device to device to text message when you have no data or wifi.
  • SMSmart
    If you have an Android device with free text messaging but pricy data, this app is for you. SMSmart lets you use your text messaging system to get directions, news, stock info and much more. You can even hook it up to use with Twitter.
  • Newsify (iOS) and FeedMe (Android)
    If you’re a news junkie like I am, you get a little frustrated when you’re out of reach of the latest headlines. These two apps let you see the content from your RSS feeds offline no matter where you are. You can also save content from a number of sources into Pocket to read at your convenience.
  • Beartooth
    When you’re really, really off the grid, this gadget may be the answer. Beartooth pairs with your smartphone so you can talk, text and use maps when you have zero service. That means you and your backpacking friends can always be in touch with home base as long as you’re all within 10 miles. Everyone has to have his own device ($100 for the first then the price goes down), but it looks like they’re on sale now.

 

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