Live in NYC? There’s an App for That.

24 Jul

One of my favorite iPhone apps: Train Delay.

There is probably no other electronic device that I love more right now than my iPhone. Could I live without it? Absolutely. I’m aware that once upon a time when I had far less knowledge about this city, I coped just fine without any cell phone at all. But, with that said, I also understand that this little pocket computer makes my life in New York City so much easier in so many ways. I use so many of its apps on a daily basis. It helps me when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and can spare no time dealing with subway service issues. It helps me when I need to find a great restaurant or bar on the fly. It helps me pass the time when I’m attempting to mail something at my mammoth post office and trying to suppress my “line rage.” (Yes, that’s something like road rage.) Here are ten of my very favorite iPhone apps (some are also available for other types of smart phones) for making city life easier:

1. THE “I’ll never leave early and arrive late again” APP:

Train Delay (FREE)

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you debated two train line options located in different stations that would both take you to your destination and you wrongly picked the one that was being completely rerouted due to construction, then this app will make you sing with joy. Train Delay allows you to pick any train line and then lets you know of any current service issues before you pay a fare and read the signs on the platform. The screen initially shows you whether the line you’ve selected has any current problems, but you can tap the center of the page to find out additional details or click the map icon to find another nearby subway station.

2. THE Multi-tasking / “Where the heck is…” APP:

NYC Way (FREE)

If you only get one app, this is probably your best one-stop shop.  The NYC Way app offers a little bit of everything. Looking for a good street vendor just a short walk away? Need to find the closest public restroom? Want to find the nearest free Wi-Fi? Trying to book a Broadway show on the go?  This is your app.

3. THE Last-minute Night Out APP:

Time Out New York (FREE)

This app from New York’s trusted food and entertainment guide, Time Out New York, uses a GPS to find your location and then allows you to locate the nearest restaurants, bars, concerts, events, and theaters in your vicinity. Certain locations contain an icon that says “Critics’ pick” and others contain starred reviews.  The app’s homepage also shows you a slideshow of the most popular events happening in New York right now. Occasionally, this app gets things slightly wrong (e.g., a home decor store in my ‘hood is billed as a bar), but for the most part this is a fantastic resource for finding options in neighborhoods you’re less familiar with or to remind you of your choices in areas you know well.

4. THE Urban Rage-Diminishing APP:

This American Life (FREE)

This app, which offers podcasts from NPR’s fabulous radio show This American Life, is better than any anger management technique you might otherwise use when waiting in an obscenely long line at the DMV or dealing with the caucophany of noise and pokey pedestrian traffic you inevitably need to contend with if walking through Midtown Manhattan. I listen to these podcasts during my congested morning commute, in line at Rite Aid (there are NEVER enough cashiers at the one in my neighborhood), on roadtrips, when running errands or waiting for an MIA subway train, and in line to pick up packages at the post office. These fascinating stories about ordinary folks keep me calm and make me more patient in the face of irritating situations or human displays of sheer stupidity. I’m sure many human lives have been spared as a result.

5. THE No Minutes to Spare APP:

Exit Strategy ($3.99)

If you’ve been a New Yorker for more than a few months, then you probably practice what is often known here as “prewalking.” For the newbies, prewalking involves walking to a certain place on the subway platform so that you are closest to the exit nearest your destination. If New Yorkers are about anything, it’s efficiency (the thing that tourists often misunderstand as simple rudeness). Exit Strategy helps you shave minutes off your trip by showing you diagram of the exits at your destination, helping you align yourself with the right end of the train while waiting on the platform. At typically crowded stations, this also helps you pop out of the train and above ground ahead of the masses–avoiding that feeling of being corralled livestock.

6. THE Grab a Table on the Go APP:

Open Table (FREE)

Much like the website of the same name, www.opentable.com, this application allows you to search for restaurants with openings and then make reservations. It’s a great tool if you’re away from a computer and need to swiftly secure a table somewhere.

7. THE “I don’t want to look like a tourist” APP: 

Subway Map (FREE)

While at this stage in the game, I rarely need to use a subway map, every once in a while I need to get my bearings–particularly if I’m deep into Queens or the Bronx, or anywhere on the J in Brooklyn (e.g., There’s an Alabama Ave. station in the boroughs? Where am I?). This app offers you a digital map of the entire subway system. You can also zoom in or out to get a better look.  Then, there’s never a reason to crane your upper body over a disgruntled subway passenger in order to see the map behind them. Only tourists do that…right? ;-)

8. THE Lazy Hungry Person’s APP:

Menu Pages (FREE)

If you sometimes feel as lazy as me when you get home from a long day’s work, this app will be your new best friend. There are some nights when I want to order in but honestly can’t even be bothered to go through the stack of menus I have tucked away in a basket or to open my laptop to search for something online. I may not even feel like I have the energy to type the phone number. Pretty bad — I know. With the Menu Pages app, you can peruse menus via your phone, search for a style of cuisine, read reviews, and then click a link to dial your restaurant of choice directly. It’s a lazy girl’s go-to app if ever there was one.

9. THE Know More Than Your Cabbie APP

Beat the Traffic (FREE)

“Beat the Traffic?,” you say. “I don’t even own a car.” I assure you this is still a good app to have in your arsenal. Have you ever been in a cab, and had the driver turn to you and says, “Do you want me to take the FDR or Third Avenue?” Perhaps, you say the FDR just to end up in bumper-to-bumper traffic and wondering if the other route is less congested? Well, never again. This app provides you with the right answer. A quick look at a map coded in yellow, red, and green gives you a general idea as to how traffic is moving on any given street. And…if you’re someone who takes a lot of summer roadtrips, you know how miserable it can be trying to get in and out of the city. This app helps you decide whether to take the GW Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel. If everything is jammed up, at least you can rest easy knowing that there is no better option.

10. THE Penny-Pinching Roadtripper’s APP

Gas Buddy (FREE)

This too is a road-tripper’s friend. Click on this app, and it instantly provides a list of the nearest gas stations along with their current prices. Renting a car from New York is rarely a cheap adventure, so I much appreciate this app’s penny-pinching approach to helping me fuel up.

What are your favorite apps? I’m always looking to add anything that will make my life a bit easier! And if anyone has apps to suggest for other types of smart phones, please suggest away. I only listed those that I know work for iPhones because that is the only device in my household.

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