Jetting off on holiday? Or just want your phone to help vanquish your winter blues? Whatever the case, join Jon Buckthorp as he uncovers the best in 360 photo and video apps...

Jon Buckthorp is our resident globe-trotting travel writer here on Vodafone Social. But, with this blog being what it is, Jon’s focus is more about the tech in your pocket that can transform your trips, rather than picking out hotels. This time round, Jon turns his attention to the burgeoning world of 360-degree photos…

To bring 2017 in with a bang (and to take my travel blog role seriously), I did something in December that I’ve never done up to this point in my life; spend New Year’s Eve in a different country. Palma (Mallorca) was my destination of choice, but whilst I was there I wanted to add another personal first to the list: using 360-degree photo and video apps to help enhance and capture the experience like never before.

To do just that, I’ve been playing with a handful of great apps that use my phone’s inbuilt camera to create brilliant, view-spanning experiences for mobiles, tablets and VR headsets. Here’s my pick of the very best out there right now…

Google Street View | iOS, Android (Free)
Alongside the Google Trips app mentioned in my last blog, Street View is another well-used feature of Maps that has long since broken out into its own separate app. But the beauty here is that Street View is no longer solely reliant on Google’s camera cars; anyone can use their phone’s inbuilt camera to capture detailed 360-degree photos of their surroundings and publish them to the app, giving budding travellers a much richer level of information.

This app was actually my first foray into creating 360-degree content; we visited San Juan Gastronomic Market on the outskirts of central Palma – a shrine to local food that served as the perfect start to our NYE festivities – to capture the scenes, the incredible iberico ham, and the cava, all at once.

360 Panorama | iOS, Android (Free)
This is another very simple point-and-click tool for mapping your memories in immersive way. It includes its own social portal to upload your snaps to, which can then be shared with other app users, as well as on your usual social networks. The results are great, but I can really recommend viewing them on something big like the iPad Pro, or with a VR headset like Google Cardboard of the Samsung Gear VR, to gain the full effect.

The beautiful vistas around the Cathedral in Palma are a great place to experience these features, with the app helping me capture one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen. The surrounding gardens and fountains were a fantastic place to see the unofficial firework displays that lit up the first morning of 2017, too.

VRTube and YouTube | iOS, Android (Free)
Creating 360 content is fun by itself, but you also need a place to share it. And that’s a problem when some tools only allow you to stay within the walled garden of the application you’re using. These two sharing sites are the antidote to that problem, allowing you to universally share your work and find that of others – crucially, on YouTube.

In fact, YouTube’s 360-degree video integration is a stroke of genius in general. With modern bike, drone and car cams all now broadcasting in 360, there’s a whole world of breath-taking content to get stuck into. On New Year’s Day we took a walk on the coastal path to Portixol, which is a really scenic route full of great views. Check out this 360 video of that same path filmed on bicycle to see what we mean:

Facebook | iOS, Android, Windows Phone (Free)
Facebook’s been getting in on the 360-degree video and photo action in a big way over the past year. While some of the most impressive content you’ll find on the app will probably come by way of a professional 360-degree camera rig, you can easily share your own immersive photos straight from your phone.

In the latest version of the app, any panoramic photo you’ve got stored on your phone can be uploaded with the option to turn it into a 360-esque photo, letting people pan their phone around the room to get a better feel of things. It makes holiday snaps of old look positively pointless.

360 degrees, 365 days a year

With our phones able to generate the content and the cost of VR headsets constantly coming down, these kinds of immersive 360-degree experiences will only become a bigger part of our lives in 2017. And that’s great news when it comes to enhancing our travel snaps more than ever before. But the tech can also give you sneak previews of places you’d not otherwise be able to see…

Take a look at the video above to see a behind the scenes of Vodafone HQ, for example, filmed by some of our brilliant graduate folks.

Feliz año nuevog, fellow tech travellers! Check out Jon’s blog on holiday photo curation apps to help you get your next trip sorted.