Friday, March 14, 2014
The Best Apps for London City Living
Whenever I catch sight of my friends' phones, I'm instinctively curious about what apps they have on there and what they use on a daily basis. I feel like the apps on smart phones are so personal and tailored to each individual. The apps that people use often reveal a lot about their personalities and give great insight into their daily lives! For example, mine is totally social media-centric. I'm on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook all the time - they're the first things I check in the morning, even before my emails.
But for today, I've collated some of my favorite apps specifically for London (and city) living.
1. Citymapper - I honestly don't know where I'd be without this app. It's fantastic. Basically, it shows you all the options for different methods of transportation to your destination, as well as the time it takes, the cost, and the exact route. It even shows how many calories you'd burn if you walked it! Or, how much a black cab would cost. You can program shortcuts to your home and work so that you can tap "Get me home" from wherever you are, and you'll find the quickest way back. It's better than a trail of breadcrumbs - it's the 21st-century.
2. Tube Exits - I rarely take the tube these days, which is really, really nice, because the tube turns me into a psychotic bitch and I end up either having a panic attack or a verbal altercation with other psychotic bitches. On the rare occasion that I do take the tube however, I like to use the Tube Exits app, which shows you which direction a train is traveling in and most importantly, which car to get on if you want to exit the station quickly. It's useful for non-peak travel times though, since I tend to walk to the end of the platform when it's really busy in an effort to get on a slightly less crowded car. Carriage. Car.
3. Tube Map - Tube Map is also super useful when you want to quickly look up a station or train route. I have the sequence of stations memorized in central, central London (e.g. I have a rough idea of how to get from Holborn to Waterloo), but if I have to get from A to B using the tube and the connections are slightly complicated, I like to be able to picture it and trace the line with my finger. It's just a habit.
4. Hailo - I used to freak out when I was in an unfamiliar area by myself late at night, the tube wasn't running or was severely delayed, no buses were around to take me anywhere close to home, and every black cab that passed me was unavailable or cabs were simply non-existent. Or, second scenario: lots of cabs but I had no cash on me and there were no ATMs to be found. Hailo has totally saved me in these situations, as it allows you to request a black cab from nearly anywhere in London and you can pay by card via the app. Once you've booked your cab, it sends you a photo of your driver along with his/her license plate number, and his/her mobile number as well, so you know you're getting into the right car. It uses GPS to track the cab as it gets closer to you and shows that you've gotten into the car when you're in. The best part? It allows you to tip from the app as well - you can tap on 10%, 15%, 20% or enter a tip of your choice.
5. Minicabster - Like Hailo, but for - you guessed it - minicabs. After a couple of bad experiences while traveling by myself, I tend to avoid taking minicabs. But if it's for a short distance (say, from my brother-in-law's flat in Finsbury Park to back to mine in Islington when it's late at night) and I'm with John, then it's fine. The app is less slick than Hailo's - you have to enter information in a certain way (e.g. post code only - it doesn't seem to recognize street addresses if you start typing them in), which can be frustrating, but it also brings up a selection of minicab services closest to your location, plus their price and what time they can pick you up, which is helpful.
6. Rightmove - We've been looking to buy a property in London for just over a year now, but still haven't found The One. The Rightmove app is great because it allows you to search for properties that are for sale around you - wherever you are. So, if I'm curious about house prices in Rickmansworth, for example (which I once was, when passing through on the train), I just do a quick search and tap on the most recent properties that have been posted by estate agents to see the asking price, photographs of the interior, and even a floor plan. It's frequently updated, so you can see the newest properties and change the criteria to suit what you're looking for.
7. StreetLink - Rough sleeping in London is a common occurrence, and one that really breaks my heart - particularly in the winter months. I have occasionally bought meals for rough sleepers but it's the thought of sleeping outside in bitter conditions that really gets to me. They're often seen in doorways of stores like Northface (ironically) and other nice shops in the West End, since those have the largest area and thus, shelter from the elements. StreetLink lets you alert (not "report", since they're not doing anything wrong) local authorities about rough sleepers, so that they can help connect them to the nearest shelter for food and warmth. At first, I was highly skeptical about this service. Aside from knowing whether it actually worked or not, I was worried about getting rough sleepers into trouble with the police, which is the opposite of what I wanted to happen. But after doing a bit of research online, I felt a bit better about using it.
So those are really my favorite apps for London city living. Like everyone else, I have my lifestyle favorites, like eBay (guilty!), iPlayers for various channels, and a couple of games, as well as the latest edition of Stylist magazine - the free women's lifestyle magazine (and my favorite) that's handed out in London on a weekly basis. They've just come up with a new digital edition, which automatically downloads to my Newsstand each week. It's brilliant.
For restaurants, I typically book directly with the restaurant, though I know a lot of people use restaurant-related apps in the city. I've stopped booking through Toptable for a while now, so I've long since deleted that app.
You'll also see in the screen grab above that I have a bus checker app to check bus times at bus stops, but it's practically been rendered obsolete now that I use Citymapper, which also shows me bus stops and up-to-the-minute bus arrival times.
What are the apps you can't live without?