Below is a list of travel apps that I highly recommend you download on to your phone or iPad before your trip to Africa. Whether you're planning a safari, or a long weekend in Marrakech, these travel apps are invaluable. On a recent trip to Rwanda and Tanzania I used my iPad to read guidebooks, convert currency, store videos (from my Flip), download photos, take notes, lisen to music, and play Scrabble. The battery life is excellent and a solar charger worked perfectly at the tented camp. Cell phone networks are more widespread and reliable than electricity, so a 3G connection works better than Wi-Fi.
Amazon.com has by far the best selection of guidebooks, phrasebooks and books in general about Africa. With the Kindle app, you can download numerous books to your phone or iPad. It saves lots of luggage space, perfect for traveling light since the airlines are charging a fortune for extra bags. The Lonely Planet Guides work well on the iPad and iPhone, but they haven't quite figured out their maps, so that's a little annoying. The fact that you have the backing light on your phone or iPad means you don't have to worry about power cuts or a reading light. Very convenient if you're staying in a luxury tented camp, hut or dorm.
2. Wi-Fi Finder
A Wi-fi finder that covers 144 countries, and that includes plenty in Africa for a change! This is a great app especially if you're spending any time in African cities. You can save your searches for later use offline. The listings for Cape Town, Marrakech and Cairo are very comprehensive. My iPad relies on wi-fi, I'll personally try out their Accra and Kumasi recommendations on my next trip and report back. The free wi-fi listings also act as an unofficial guide to great little cafe's.
Making international phone calls is notoriously expensive with high roaming charges to and from Africa. Figuring out the right sim card is also tricky, especially if you are moving from country to country. Avoid it all by using a wi-fi connection to communicate with loved ones back home for free! You can call or text, and even send photos and videos. If you don't have the right phone, you can use Skype credit and get the same cheap and/or free rates. Also works with the latest iPod.
A currency converter that's free and easy to use on your iPhone, Blackberry, Android or iPad. It doesn't get better than that. Very useful wherever you plan to travel to in Africa, especially since credit cards are not very widely accepted, and you'll be dealing with cash for the most part. All currencies are listed from Angola's Kwanza, to Zambia's Kwacha. If you also need help converting inches to centimeters and kilometers to miles, check out this Converter Plus app that does it all, including currencies.
Need to get a last minute hotel, or just walking around town trying to find a nice place to stay? TripAdvisor has by far the most comprehensive hotel and Bed and Breakfast listings in almost every African city and town. From the humblest guest house in Accra, to the swankiest hotel in Cape Town. Getting firsthand reviews from people who have recently stayed there is very handy since things change rapidly in Africa and a change in management can be disastrous to a previously well run establishment. The map showing the location of every hotel is excellent, would work well if you're lost too, just find a hotel close by and pinpoint your location.
One of the joys of visiting Africa, especially when you're on safari, is the truly awesome night sky. It's a free show and you've never seen the Milky Way like this. And while I can somewhat make out the Southern Cross and occasional planet, I'm woefully ignorant of the constellations. This Starwalk app is fantastic. Just point your phone or iPad to the sky and it will tell you exactly what you're looking at. It's a star safari every night for just $1. The app also shows you the moon phases, so you can head to a nearby beach for a full moon party. If you have an Android, check out Google Star Map
Weather underground is easy to use, has detailed temperatures, forecasts, and weather information for even the most remote locations in Africa. You can check on dew points, rainfall, wind and 4 day forecasts in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. The iPad app in particular is very nice, full screen and touch sensitive. Perfect for planning your trip to Africa, since you want to know "when to go". And while on vacation, it's useful to get a forecast so you can plan your day around the weather. It's easier than trying to figure out when the weather girl/guy will appear on local TV.
The Sasol Southern African Bird Guide is a really excellent guide to have around, even if you are not planning to be on safari in Africa. Whether you're enjoying a cup of coffee in an outdoor cafe in Nairobi, or checking into a tented camp in South Luangwa, it's wonderful to spot a lovely little bird and actually figure out what you're looking at. Many of the birds you see in the rest of Africa, will be in this guide, so don't be put off by the "southern" bit.