Apps and the City: Best Apps for Urbanites

Toronto AppsRemember when cell phones were just used for making calls? No?…well, than I guess I’m aging myself. I remember when I got my first iPhone and how giddy I was sending my first mobile Facebook status update (I’m such a nerd, I know), but these days my iPhone is not just about connecting with friends and leveling up in Angry Birds. It keeps me organized, more efficient in my job, and up to date with all that’s happening in the city. City living is a beautiful, chaotic existence that requires knowledge and organization. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Actually, there’s a bunch. But sorting through over 170,000 apps on the App Store to find the best downloads for your iPhone or iPad is time consuming, so I thought that from time to time I’d share my Top5. If you have a favourite, feel free to comment.

TO HailoHailo – Cabs have been a hallmark of urban living, but while technology has impacted almost every aspect of live, it seems the cab “experience” has remained relatively untouched. It may seem that in the fourth largest city in North America,  hailing down a cab wouldn’t be a big deal, and it’s not…unless it’s last call on King Street West or it’s raining and you have dinner reservations in Midtown. Hailo helps you order the cab online, bypassing the dispatcher, and it uses GPS to find the closest cab to your location. Your account is connected to your credit card so upon arrival at your destination, you don’t even have to take out your wallet. Other nice features are notifications when your ride is one minute away and the ability to call your driver with the press of a button.

TO RocketManRocket Man – If you take the public transit to get around the city most of the time, you probably experienced the “wait or walk” dilemma more than a few times. You know the one? Just as you got tired of waiting for a streetcar and decide to walk, it suddenly appears and passes you by, and you know you can’t catch it because you’re exactly half way between the stops. If this happened to you, you need this app. This app only works for the Toronto Transit Commission and it shows the standard Google Maps layout on the iPhone and iPad, but with extra emphasis on the various subway line stops, as well as the bus and streetcar stops. The indicators for the street-level transit are especially useful, as they indicate which stops correspond to which direction, and tapping on a stop will display the E.T.A of the next bus or streetcar.The Rocket Man app also allows you to save favourite stops and check current vehicle locations on Google maps.

TO BlogTOBlogTO – If you like discovering Toronto or maybe just moved here and looking for a bit of guidance, this is the go-to place to learn about events, restaurants, bars and happenings in Toronto. The app started out as a mobile version of BlogTO‘s reviews section, and quickly grew into a multi-faceted platform that now contains news, events, personal bookmarks and more. The “Best Of” review lists range from the best Italian Hot Tables to best places to get a Custom T-Shirt. A bonus point with this app is that some restaurants have a link to their Dine Safe history, allowing you to see any past infractions. You can also search reviews by neighbourhood, look up same day events with one touch, find everything from cafes to fitness clubs around you, and connect with friends via Facebook.

GreenP Parking AppGreen P – Finding parking in Toronto is not always easy. And on an event day like a concert or a game, it can be frustrating and expensive. So if you drive in the city, this app is a life saver. The official Green P app helps you search for parking based on price and distance. What’s great about this app is the expiration timer that can help you maximize what you’ve paid for parking including the travel time between your car and destination so don’t find that pesky yellow “note” on your windshield when you arrive back at your car. That always puts a damper on an otherwise good day or evening out. As an added bonus it offers “popular searches”option that takes you right to the location rather than having to look for it on the map.


TO YelpYelp – Similar to BlogTO with it’s reviews of local businesses and city happenings, Yelp allows you to not only search for anything from restaurants to drugs stores, spas or gas stations, but also to write and share reviews, make reservations and check-in to locations. It also notifies you when your friends have check-in. As an added bonus, it saves the restaurants you’ve been to for future reference and allows you to bookmark the places you’ve read about and would like to check out in the future.

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