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New York via App

I finally joined the modern age and purchased an iPhone.   Free of my Blackberry shackles, I am now one of those people that have become perhaps a bit too attached to my smart phone.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flipboard are now so easily at my fingertips (and with unlimited data) why wouldn’t I want to spend every idle moment staring at its beautiful screen?

So when I took a long weekend to just “be” in New York City (a story for another time but she’s calling me back and I can’t seem to shake her) I decided to embrace my wondrous new device.  And by embrace I mean use my iPhone ands its vast library of apps to tell me what to do, where to go and how to get there every moment of the weekend.  I have never relied on technology so heavily in my whole life.  Without a plan for the weekend I hopped on a plane, phone in hand and dove in. 

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of apps focused on living in The Big Apple.  I decided to use just a few of the big ones: HopStop, TIme Out New York and The Scoop from the New York Times.  I also used the good old stand-bys UrbanSpoon, Google Maps and Open Table.  Here’s how I fared: 

Hop Stop

If I lived in New York, this would be an invaluable app for me.  This app got me everywhere - by subway, by foot, by train.  Just type in a starting and end point, tell it how you want to get there (subway, bus, walking) and detailed directions spit out. You can even save the trip to have handy in the future.  If you’re more visual, it also has the subway map built in to the app. It only led me astray once; but honestly I might have been at fault for that one.  Keep in mind this app uses addresses, not business names to give you directions.  So I had to use Google Maps to get to places when I knew the business name, but not the exact address.  

Time Out New York

Disappointing.  I liked how it used your current location to recommend things to do in the area, but there were never things to do.  The print version is filled with events (many of which are free), but when I wanted to see events near my location there were never any no matter where I was in the city.  The only recommendations I got were for bars and restaurants.  If I lived in New York, I would stick with the magazine and skip using the app - especially since I like using UrbanSpoon when looking for drinks or eats.

The Scoop

I give this app a thumbs up.  This one is more extensive than the TONY app, giving suggestions on bars, restaurants, coffee shops, events, shopping, day trips and unique NYC experiences.  Again I like how it used by current location to recommend nearby restaurants, shops and events.  I also loved how it linked out to relevant New York Times articles and reviews.  My one complaint is that it doesn’t allow you to save places or events that you want to go to in the future.  So while I might have found a museum exhibit at the MOMA that is on through the end of the month, there’s no way for me to save it as a reminder for future weekend plans.

The Other Apps

The other 3 apps - UrbanSpoon, Google Maps, and Open Table need no review.  I used them (and you should too) along side the other apps for restaurant reviews, reservations (since you can’t make reservations using either TONY or The Scoop) and more detailed maps.  These are gold standard apps to use any where you travel.

So how did this experiment work out? 

While technology is wonderful, and having instantaneous information at your fingertips is awesome, nothing beats using your two eyes to experience a place.  I found my head was down too often instead of up and taking in the details.  I often felt disconnected because I was relying on a device to guide me, rather than my intuition.  I think these apps are great for planning and giving you ideas, but when it comes to absorbing a place and soaking in its details, I say put the phone down, have conversations and wander.

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