What apps do you use to explore your city?

September 15th, 2011

It wasn’t really until we were leaving London last week that I figured out that I should have installed the London Cycle app, a 3rd party app that scrapes up-to-the-minute information about availability of Barclays bikes (aka “Boris bikes”), and provides maps and routing.

Nearly every Londoner (or sometimes Londoner) we met had it installed, but none of the varied insipid “top 25 iPhone apps for London” style SEO bait blog posts mentioned anything like it.

So I’m curious, what applications do you know to navigate your city and get the most out of it? They don’t have to be city specific, I’m just curious what the apps you whip out when exploring, or getting to work, or meeting friends. What’s useful? (and where do you live)

We’re reaching a point where the our cityscapes are almost intractable without augmentation and I know that keying up proper augmentations will become a key piece of my next round of urban travel.

In New York I tend to use only a small set of city specific software (much to my chagrin), and mostly rely on big generic apps (in which NYC tends to be well represented)

To navigate New York I use:

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7 responses to “What apps do you use to explore your city?”

  1. Julien says:

    Gah. I wish I could subscribe to comments.

    in the US I mostly use Google maps… in France, I use http://itunes.apple.com/be/app/allbikesnow/id333176106?mt=8 to get the list of bike stations with bikes/spots available.

  2. I’ve gotta get you to try Mapalong. :-)


  3. Paul Mison says:

    I’m not very good at apps, being just old (and bloody-minded) enough to get along with what people had until five years ago. That works out OK in London (where I carry around a huge mental list of bus routes, can reel off Tube routes from memory, and can usually find a Pret or Wagamama in minutes) but it’s not been so good in SF, and I fear it would completely fail in Austin (where I saw bus stops with just QR codes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blech/5542360466/)

    In SF, I use Google Maps for navigation and Foursquare for where to eat. For NYC, I added the KickLite subway map, mainly because looking at the paper maps in the cars meant dealing with other people. Similarly, for Berlin I have FahrInfo (and Berlin City, but I think I preferred the former).

    For London, there is an equivalent of ExitStrategy, at least on paper: http://rodcorp.typepad.com/photos/variousthings/wayoutmap.html I believe there is an app version but I never bothered with it. Other apps I have include the Barclay suite: London Bus and Tube Status, along with Cycle Deluxe (but I never really got to use the bike scheme). Google Maps now has public transport directions there too, which is fine as long as you have affordable data.

    … I should probably have made this a post, not a comment. Ah well.

  4. Shawn Medero says:

    I can’t fathom navigating Seattle’s bus system without OneBusAway (iPhone, Android, Web). It is probably tripled my usage of busses in Seattle and given that I don’t own a car, that’s saying a lot.

    For biking I’ve largely used Google Maps because they’ve one a lot of the testing of the service here in Seattle… I find it is pretty good. Ride the City is also very good in Seattle and I keep a copy of the country and city maps on my iPhone thanks to the handy Bike Maps app.

    I wrote my own “Weather.app” similar to weathernear.me but using a different data source that is more accurate for the Pacific Northwest. It was nice to see that it worked just as well in Italy as it does back home though.

    Seattle is a rather yelp-centric town but there are a few apps for things like food-trucks that are still sorting themselves out (much like Seattle’s hampered-by-local-govt fledgling food-truck industry.)

    I use Locavore quite a bit at the various farmer’s markets when I’m not 100% sure what is still in-season: http://www.getlocavore.com/

  5. Rafe says:

    How do people use FourSquare to find places to eat? Do you just look for tips and specials around wherever you are at the moment? I don’t think of myself as a planner, but I rarely go anywhere without a pretty good idea of when and where I want to eat, or at least a very short list of options I’m considering.

  6. The hardest thing is finding the best local apps amongst the generic names and SEO. Apart from the ones you first mentioned, I don’t know of anything that works great worldwide.

    In Berlin there is the free public transport app Fahrinfo – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fahrinfo-berlin/id284971745?mt=8 – and Berliners seem to prefer Qype to Yelp (although it’s harder to find good stuff in Qype).

    In London it’s worth paying for http://www.tubeexits.co.uk/ even though the UI is frustratingly slow and interaction-heavy just when you need it to be snappy. http://www.londonsbestcoffee.co.uk/ is great.

    Austin has its own app just for food carts – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/austinfoodcarts/id396065243?mt=8

    San Francisco Stairways is a lovely example of a unique app just for that city – http://itunes.apple.com/app/san-francisco-stairways/id388516508?mt=8