6 Must-Have Apps for City Slickers
You could argue that smartphones were made for urban living. Apps provide an unprecedented level of control (or, at least, the illusion of control) for a fast-paced lifestyle. And simply owning a smartphone is a kind of hip status symbol that city dwellers seem to expect from one another.
Not that suburbanites and rural residents don’t need or want apps too, but there’s just so much more stuff in big cities, by definition. New restaurants, one-time events, bars without signs, streets serpentine enough to confuse natives—it can be overwhelming.
To make sense of all that stuff, a smartphone can go a long way. There are plenty of apps that can suit your specific needs, but we’ve compiled a list of six apps that every (heh-hem) city slicker needs to optimize his or her big-city experience.
For those of us who aren’t able to get around by foot or public transit, Honk provides a defense against one of the biggest banes of city living: the meter maid.
You’re in a hurry and you just want the first bare bit of curb you can find to look after your car for a few hours. Parking signs and permit laws pile up, and soon enough, getting a parking ticket is easier than remembering to lock your doors.
Honk puts your meter in your pocket so you know exactly how much time is left. Set reminders for your ticking parking clock and get back to your car before parking enforcement does. You can also set your car’s location with GPS, which is useful for meetings in the unfamiliar lands of “across town.”
Honk costs less than a buck. Parking tickets cost more. Go save yourself some lunch money. ($0.99 for iPhone)
Unless you’re in Manhattan, simply stepping curbside and raising your hand in the air probably won’t net you a cab. Taxi Magic is the best taxi-booking app available. It finds your location using GPS, and then it provides a list of all cab companies covering your area, with phone numbers at the tap of a button.
Better still, some cab companies (typically the bigger ones, like Yellow Cab), are integrated into the app. You can book through the app without making a phone call. As soon as a cab has been dispatched to your location, you’ll get a notification with your driver’s name and estimated time of arrival. You’ll get another notification once the cab has arrived. You can even pay directly through the app, with no money or cards ever needing to change hands.
Looks like we’re going to need to come up with a new use for whistling. (Free for Android and iPhone)
MyCityWay is a tourism guide for the modern age, but it’s even good enough for locals too. It eschews “travel planning” like TripAdvisor and reviews like Yelp, and it sticks to simply curating cities.
After you select one of the 39 cities, you can find virtually anything you’re looking for. MyCityWay’s interface is a simple cascade of icons for a wide variety of categories, from dining to ATMs to recycling centers. Places are then listed in order of shortest distance, with all the pertinent info you might find in a travel-guide blurb (hours, cost, parking notes, etc.).
Whether you’re a hardened local or a visitor for the first time, you should have MyCityWay with you to make the most out of a city. (Free for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone)
If you have a smartphone and you don’t already have Yelp, listen up. The restaurant/business/place finder and user-review network is invaluable for wading through the thousands of places to eat and hang out in your city.
With Yelp’s excellent search feature, you can always find what you’re looking for. A place that’s open, nearby and delivers? A dive bar on the west side to kill an hour before the movie? The best rock-climbing wall in town?
The downside of Yelp is a potential lack of discovery—if you’ll only patronize businesses you find on Yelp with 4- or 5-star ratings, you’ll never find something new on your own.
What if the reviewers are wrong? All the more reason to hop in and voice your opinion. (Free for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone)
WhatWasThere is a wonderful application of your phone’s technology and a, gulp, history lesson in disguise. The app uses Google Maps to integrate old photos at specific geographical locations, allowing users to literally see “what was there” in history.
A slider bar will allow you to increase and decrease a photo’s transparency, shifting from past to present. And an awesome augmented-reality feature is like a portal into the past. Using your phone’s camera, you’ll get a new (well, old, technically speaking) look at your city or the city you’re visiting.
The archive photos are still sparse, but the coolest part of WhatWasThere is that it’s a living project. Users can add their own photos and help the project grow over time. It’s smart, it’s fun and it’s the perfect addition to your city-slicker lifestyle. (Free for iPhone)
No news flash here: Cities house an endless amount of restaurants, bars and shops. It can be difficult to remember all the ones that catch your eye when walking down the street, not to mention the ones that your friends tell you about.
Enter a cool-looking app to bookmark the places you want to try. You can enter the name of a location or simply tap i'm walking by it, and you can add a quick note about the place plus tags to categorize the cuisine, style or ambience. You can share your must-tries with friends via Facebook and Twitter, and ultimately browse your Bookmarks list using a bunch of different settings and filters you created along the way.
And thanks to an update earlier this year, Matchbook will even ping you with deals and coupons for the locations on your list. How's that for incentive? (Free for iPhone)