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The time for Macworld Expo 2010 is upon us and the handiest tool you’ll bring to San Francisco with you is, of course, your iPhone. What apps should you install on your phone to enhance your Macworld experience?
The iMacworld is a handy guide for navigating the show floor and planning your day. iMacworld, featuring maps and a show directory, was just recently updated for 2010, so jump onboard.
Traveling to San Francisco
Gate Guru (99 cents)
For those who don’t travel often, favorite airport amenities frequently change and may be difficult to find. You’ve got 30 minutes between flights and can’t play “Where’s Waldo” to find your favorite coffee dispensary. Did Peet’s moved to gate 12 from gate 18? Gate Guru can help. Additionally, the app has a review function so if you aren’t sure where to eat, let the wisdom of crowds guide you. The interface is a bit clunky as you can’t search by airport, only by terminal within the airport, but otherwise it is handy and accurate.
Traveling requires corralling an endless stream of alpha-numeric confirmation codes and repeating the same information over and over again to family and friends. Setup a TripIt account and email TripIt your confirmations, and they’ll automatically put it all into an itinerary complete with additional hotel information and links that you can share with others. When the front desks says they have no record of your reservation, pull up your TripIt app and you’ll have all the data handy.
FlightTrack Pro ($9.99)
Flight delays are a fact of life and getting accurate information is sometimes a challenge. Like many other apps, FlightTrack Pro will track flights for you. What’s special about this app is that it will also give you handy access to the airline’s phone number and provide push notifications. An indispensable feature is its ability to find alternate flights that match your planned itinerary should your flight be cancelled, as well as integrated access with TripIt.
Getting Around in San Francisco
iCommute is similar to MuniApp and iBART, except that it also covers the AC Transit system which serves the East Bay. Utilizing Nextbus information, it offers real time and predictive information as to when the bus or train will arrive. It might be the best “jack of all trades” for general getting around, but the interface was a bit more cluttered the MuniApp’s UI. Still, with the more complete data, if you had to pick a single app, iCommute is probably the one.
MuniApp focuses on San Francisco’s citywide bus and light rail network. It also includes BART info for the stations in SF, making it a good all-around solution if you plan to do heavy traveling within the city limits of San Francisco. The app will predict when the next bus will arrive, and has a good interface for sorting out the sometime confusing amount of bus routes in the city.
HopStop allows you to enter a start and end location (or it will use your GPS as the starting point) and will build a route, mixing rail, bus and walking, taking into account the time of day. It is free and accurate, although the quality of the maps is poor. Similar to a GPS, it gets you from point A to B, though locals might disagree on the route it picks.
Exploring San Francisco
Yelp is not San Francisco-specific, but of all the apps for finding what is cool in the neighborhood from where you are standing, Yelp stands above. There’s no better app for finding hidden restaurant gems and seeing what the locals think, and with the “VR camera mode” you can hold the phone in front of you and actually see places to eat and shop in real time as you move around. Don’t leave home without this app!
“Not For Tourists” promises to show you the cool local places that tourists like you would never stumble upon on your own. That’s their line, but in reality, this is another generic guidebook to San Francisco with a hipster edge, and while not bad, it certainly isn’t that much better than other similar apps. It has a good selection of bars and restaurants, but you need to search specific categories.
Lonely Planet Travel Guide (Free)
This app automatically includes their SF guide and allows in app purchases for other destinations. Unfortunately, the app is slow to load and is a whopping 65MB in size. This is the most comprehensive guide out and contains the entire printed volume in a location-aware e-book format. Lonely Planet includes the depth of detail on the city’s culture and sights that other guides fail to include. Since the SF content is free, it is definitely worth the “price,” just remember to load it in advance due to the size.
And just for the fun of it, two bonus apps. These aren’t necessary, but sure are fun for people with special interests.
Fido Factor (Free)
FidoFactor helps you find all things dog friendly in SF and includes dog pictures at each location. It’s Yelp for dog lovers. As a dog owner, I appreciate businesses that are dog friendly and like to patronize them. By reviewing or adding locations, money is donated to the SF SPCA. Nice!
SF Beer Week (Free)
Technology is my first passion, but being a beer nerd is a close second. By moving Macworld to February, Macworld coincides with SF Beer Week. This app isn’t location or date aware and is pretty much just an easy way view the static schedule for the Beer Week, but finding what beer related activities are going on while in SF is priceless. Mmm, beer!