Parkmobile review: Putting the meter in your smartphone

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