One of the most popular ad taglines in recent memory has been ‘Don’t leave home without it.’ It applied to the American Express card initially, but since the phrase first hit the airwaves it’s burrowed itself deep into the public consciousness and been applied to anything and everything that might be considered essential.
These days there is practically nothing more essential than a smartphone. Forgot your wallet? Pay with your phone. Locked out of your house? Ask Siri for a locksmith. Forgot your tickets to the big event? Just reach up and download them from the cloud.
But a quiver is useless until it’s filled with arrows. To get your iPhone working for you you need apps that relate directly to your life. And if you’re reading this, odds are your life is all tangled up with the city of Baltimore. And much like Our Fair City, sometimes you have to look below the surface to discover the charm. It’s easy enough to find the apps from a local TV or radio station, but we’ve had to dig a little deeper to discover some of our favorites.
Here’s the first half of our top 20 choices in no particular order. All of them are free to download unless otherwise noted.
WYPR This is the one essential app from traditional media. You can listen live to WYPR or the BBC World Service, and access on-demand content for any NPR or YPR program (Cellar Notes!). You can also read content as articles if you prefer. It even comes with a few neat features like a sleep timer and alarm clock, and of course you can donate to the station from the app. Highly recommended.
City Paper As much as we like City Paper, we don’t care much for their iPhone app. When we had it installed it felt like orphaned technology so much so that even the content didn’t update. You’re much better reading it in print or simply bookmarking their mobile site on your home screen, which is what we do. Not recommended.
Bmore 311 The 311 app works surprisingly well. In fact, it works better than the city website or the city government itself for that matter. We’ve used this app several times to open new 311 requests and the process is simple and fast, although the city misleadingly labels many requests as ‘closed’ when they are not actually resolved. It’s also strangely addictive to scroll through the requests of others complete with photos and commentary, and you can tweet right from the app as well. Highly recommended.
Artscape An iPhone app is a new addition to the festival for 2013. Because Artscape is still more than a month away it might be a little premature to judge this, but it does look very promising. The app includes the full program and is sortable by time or location and fully searchable, as well as other nifty features like maps and updates as well as the ability to plan your own itinerary. Recommended.
Wham City Lights This app, and a similar one specifically for Dan Deacon turn your phone into a mini light-show and synthesizer. You can read more about the tech and development of the app in last week’s B cover story. We predict it’ll be a sleeper. As more and more artists embrace it and further updates reinvent it it will become even more fun to play with. Recommended.
Mission Tix We’ve been carrying this app for a long time now and find it extremely useful for local shows. You can browse a list of all upcoming events or search by name. Buying tickets for multiple shows in one checkout is convenient, and any tickets bought from your computer on missiontix.com automatically show up on the app, eliminating the need for printing. You can even transfer tickets to friends via email, which is great if you can’t make it at the last minute. Highly recommended.
The Ravens As it happened we were not near a TV or radio during the Super Bowl this year, but luckily for us the Ravens’ iPhone app allowed us to follow every play in real time and look back over the full game play-by-play. We like it so much we’re going to keep it, at least during football season. Whether you want full info straight out of the playbook or just a quick check of the score, the Ravens’ app has something for die hard fans and casual observers alike. We’d love it if the MLB would allow clubs to create apps like this instead of trying to get us to pay $15 for MLB at Bat every year. Highly recommended.
Maryland Travel Traffic NOAA All-In-1 Since we haven’t got a car or a commute to be bothered with, we’re going to skip this 99 cent download, but if you struggle with traffic even semi-regularly this looks like a great bet. You can see a live feed of any traffic camera in the region and get travel times instantly for wherever you’re going. The app also includes weather from NOAA, directions and a whole lot more, and all without the annoying jabber of local news commercials and helicopters. Recommended.
Visit Baltimore Likewise this is another app that we don’t carry personally. If you’re a Baltimore resident you’re probably not going to find this app very helpful since you already know your way around pretty well. For outsiders though it’s a good idea to download and carry this at least through the duration of your trip. If you’re sticking around downtown on a first time visit you’ll find it especially useful. Not recommended.