5 smartphone apps for city dwellers and travellers

The phone in your pocket can do many things, including these five that are useful at home and also when travelling.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

There are thousands of smartphone apps that do a lot of different things. Finding an app or a use for the phone in your pocket that helps you on a regular basis is priceless. Chances are there are things your smartphone can do for you that you've never considered. Hopefully you'll find at least one thing in this collection to make your life easier.

Image: George Bush Airport

Most of these solutions will work in your home location if you live in a major city. Even if you live in an area not served, business travellers to major cities should find them useful on the road.

There are alternative solutions to the ones I cover in this article. These are the ones I use and find to be good:

Image: Parkmobile

Parking your car

Big cities all have one thing in common; the urban parking situation is never good. Any help you can get parking your car is a good thing, and your phone may be able to step in on your behalf.

My home city of Houston has an arrangement with Parkmobile to allow paying for parking at downtown metered spaces using a smartphone app. The Parkmobile app lets you select how much time you want at the meter, and pay from the app. You can even read the meter number by scanning a QR code.

Paying for parking is handy enough, but that's not all Parkmobile that can do. It will send a text or email to your phone when your paid session is about to expire. You can extend your parking session right from your phone. No longer do you run back to the meter to pay to avoid the parking police.

If you don't know where to find metered parking nearby, the app has you covered. It can pinpoint on a map where all appropriate parking spaces are located.

The app can also find your car if you can't remember exactly where you parked it, as it records your GPS location when you pay for parking.

The Parkmobile app is available for most smartphones and can be used in dozens of cities in the US.

Find Your Car
Image: Find Your Car

Find your car

Whether attending a special event at a big stadium, or running around a big city, eventually, you start back to your car only to realize that you're not sure where you've parked. If you haven't used the previous app that notes your car's location, don't worry, there's another app for this.

Most smartphones have GPS inside, and that is handy for always knowing where you are. The Find Your Car app can record your car's GPS coordinates when you park it, ensuring you can easily get back to it later.

Just tell the app to find your car when you want to return to the it, and the GPS steps in to guide you right back to it.

Yellow Cab
Image: Hailacab

Hail a cab

Finding a cab in many cities can be a frustrating experience. The Yellow Cab organization has developed a collection of city-specific apps to turn that situation around. The apps can hail a cab in covered areas, including sending the exact location of your phone so that the cabbie can find you. The Houston app I have also shows me how close the cab is to picking me up.

Yellow cab has apps for several cities in Texas, and one for New York City has been proposed.

Get some grub delivered

Whether you live in an urban center or are visiting one on business, your smartphone can get some tasty food delivered to your home or hotel. While many large restaurant chains have apps for ordering food, I've used a couple of services with apps that handle good local restaurants.

Image: Eat24

GrubHub is one such service, but I've had the best luck using the Eat24 service and its app. Finding just what you crave is as easy as searching in the app, which returns a list of establishments that are currently serving your location.

The Eat24 app presents the entire menu for the selected restaurant, and ordering is as simple as tapping on desired dishes. The meal can be paid for in the app, including tip, so no cash is needed for the delivery person when the food arrives.

Using Eat24, I can have the old standbys delivered, pizza and Chinese food, but it doesn't stop there. I've been able to get Indian, Mexican, Cajun, and even steak and potatoes delivered.

Many cities are covered, so Eat24 is handy when travelling, too.

Find public transportation

Whether you live in a city center or are just visiting, taking public transportation is a good way to get around. The problem with doing so, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place, is knowing where to catch the subway, bus, or train.

Google Now
Image: Google

Google Maps is a useful tool for urban visitors, and Google Now on Android is even better. Google Now shows you all public transportation stops nearby and guides you to them if you wish.

It shows you which buses and trains are next at the nearby stops, so you can be sure you don't miss your transportation.

The walking maps in Google Maps are also good for travelling big cities by foot. It's great to not waste any steps when walking urban areas.

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