Parkmobile review: Putting the meter in your smartphone

Parkmobile review: Putting the meter in your smartphone

Summary: Parking meters are an unpleasant reality in most cities, but in those that have smart meters enabled this app puts your smartphone in control.

Parking sign
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The smartphone becomes your best friend when Parkmobile is installed. It puts the parking meter in the phone and lets you pay for parking while sitting in your car, no coins required. I speak with visitors to downtown Houston who have no idea this exists so if you're not paying for parking with your phone you should pay attention.

Parkmobile is a service that enables paying for metered parking from a smartphone app. There are Parkmobile apps for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. Using them is as simple as signing up for a Parkmobile account and downloading the free app.

Once it's set up when you pull into a metered parking space you fire up the app. Enter the meter (or zone) number and indicate how much time you want to park. The app can even scan the meter number QR code if available which is even easier.

Parkmobile pays for the parking from the bank or credit card account you've configured, and in some areas even PayPal can be used. There is a small transaction fee for using Parkmobile but believe me it's worth it.

In Houston if you pay without Parkmobile (at the meter) you have to place a receipt on your dash so the parking police know you've paid (do not forget to do this). With Parkmobile there is no need to do this as the parking system knows you've paid. This is a minor convenience but nice on rainy days.

The app starts a timer when you park and will send you a reminder (text or email) 15 minutes before your paid session ends. This is useful if you're parked in a metered space with a maximum time limit as you can get back to your car in time to move it. If your space doesn't have a limit you can extend the parking session right in the Parkmobile app which is very handy.

Parkmobile is now available in 400 cities around the world, including many in the US, so if it's available in your area you may want to check it out. Business people who hit the city center frequently will no doubt find this very useful.

Parking meter
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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  • No way New Haven, CT will get these

    They make far too much money ticketing users of their old meters. These would give users a record of when they fed the meter and the meter readers would lose the ability to reset the meter and ticket users. The worst are in the area surrounding Yale New Haven Hospital, where meters routinely expire far in advance of the time paid for and "earn" the city $20 parking tickets.
  • There's an easier fix

    I resolved the parking meter problem the old fashioned way. I avoid the inner city with a passion. I haven’t gone downtown in decades, and I don’t miss it a bit. There are many other user friendly locations in which to do business.
  • Meter in Smartphone in Scranton, PA

    Scranton, Pa uses the Pango [pay-and-go] system for downtown parking meters. System available in 47 "major" cities according to website. Free app that installed correctly to my iPhone 4s and ties into debit or credit card. Web site says it will handle all smartphones.

    Some ads come to your phone via local merchants. Cannot find anything about a fee for the service in the TOS.

    When you pull int a Pango metered spot you open the App, select the city and identify the parking 'zone' that appears on the meter and press your 'stopwatch' on your phone and see the meter running.

    You get a confirming email that your Pango App has bee activated, and similarly a message when you cancel your App when you are finished parking.

    In Scranton there is no limit how long can you stay at that meter. You can check the App on your phone to see your charges.
    The minimum fee is the initial cost for a unit of parking ($.25). The total fee is the time you are at the meter, in other words a fraction of the $.25 cent unit is charged which is great as you don't get any unused change back from a meter.

    Of course I like it.
  • Wish all cities used Parkmobile!

    Yesterday, I went to state office building in Oakland, along with five associates. I parked for 1 hour 37 minutes, using the app, paying $3.65. They parked across the street in municipal garage at $5, plus $1 per 15 minutes. They paid for 2 hours..I came out after 1 hour 44 minutes..choosing not to add time when I got the app reminders! No ticket...saved $15. I love this app for windows phone!
  • Sounds like a cool app to have ...

    But I wouldn't use it very often because I live in a small town where they removed the old-style coin parking meters years ago. The good news, no parking costs. The bad news, my town is dying a slow death.
  • Charge a fee...?

    Why should motorist have to pay a fee to use this facility? First of all, as the system is computerised/automated, costs to the car park management are lower, and secondly, parking charges and fines are high enough already. Here in the UK, the Government are finally actually acknowledging that local councils are using parking charges as a cash cow to fund general services and say they are going to do something about it (I'll believe it when I see it).