What it is: A way to connect to the Web via pay-by-the-minute Wi-Fi hot spots around the world. You pay the charges using money in your Skype account.
How it works: Say you want to surf the Web in an airport, but your 3G or 4G connection is insufferably slow. You try to connect to a Wi-Fi network in the airport, but your phone finds only networks with hidden passwords, and you dare not use the free networks because they make it easy for someone to steal your data. This app will see if there’s a pay-by-the-minute Skype WiFi provider in the airport and let you connect to that network and pay your per-minute charges from your Skype account. When you connect, the first page you see will tell you the per-minute rate so you can decide whether to join.
Why it’s great: More than 1 million Skype WiFi networks are available worldwide. Signing in is a breeze, you don’t have to dig out a credit card to use the network, and you don’t have to worry about data roaming charges.
Why you might hesitate: Many hotel lobbies and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi. Skype WiFi isn’t available everywhere.
Whom it’s for: Travelers who need Wi-Fi in a pinch, if there’s a Skype WiFi network hovering nearby.
GateGuru (free; iOS)
What it is: A handy resource for travelers in more than 125 airports worldwide.
How it works: Get a map of your airport; read users’ recommendations for restaurants; find tips about ATM locations, cheap parking locations and more. Making a connection? Check your flight arrival time and get departure gate location, as well as departure time for your connecting flight. While waiting in the security line, users log in to let everyone else know how long of a wait to expect.
Why it’s great: The restaurant reviews and airport tips are worth it alone. Navigate unfamiliar airports like a pro, and avoid the traps that previous fliers have helpfully pointed out.
Why you might hesitate: As with similar apps, information is only as good as the air passengers offering it.
Whom it’s for: Fliers - and the people picking them up or dropping them off - who want a heads-up before arriving at the labyrinth that is the modern airport.
Talking Larry (99 cents; iOS)
What it is: A hilarious time waster that repeats your words at a higher pitch.
How it works: Start talking, and Larry - who might be a cockatoo - narrows his eyes, raises a wing to his ear and concentrates on what you’re saying. Then he parrots your words in a higher pitch.
Why it’s great: Kids love it, and adults will find it funny too. Larry’s beak and eyes move as he repeats your words, and the sillier you are, the sillier he sounds. Soon you’re convulsing in involuntary laughter.
Why you might hesitate: Will definitely annoy bystanders who aren’t in a silly mood.
Whom it’s for: Travelers with kids who want to do more than watch another TV show on the phone.
(c)2011 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services