Forget Facebook. Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope—all of them are nice to have, but superfluous to your needs. There’s only a handful of smartphone applications you flat-out need to get by in a city. In fact, we’ve narrowed it down to the 10 apps listed below, all of which are available for both Android and iOS platforms.
BreezoMeter measures air quality in real time. Using local monitoring equipment and an innovative air quality calculation algorithm that earned its makers a commendation from the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the app warns you when it’s unhealthy to go outside via a basic, quick-read interface (essentially a gauge and a map). It’s a must-have for anyone who exercises, has infant children or lungs they’re interested in keeping.
Even if you’re too busy, shy or stuck-up to meet your neighbors, they’re still your best defense against robbers, Sean Toon, etc. Nextdoor is a social app that allows neighbors to talk to each other without setting up elaborate email chains, wading into the shitshow of Facebook or, heaven forbid, stepping outside into 100 plus-degree sunshine. It’s a better, quicker way to find lost dogs, unload spare furniture, or catch bicycle theives.
OpenTable enables you to make restaurant reservations on the fly, a must for weekend nights in Las Vegas, when tourists find their way to even the most obscure off-Strip joints. And OpenTable provides a more-or-less accurate indicator of how busy a restaurant is at any given time: if the nearest reservation slot is an hour away or more, skip to your next choice.
When the City of Las Vegas jacked up its parking rates last spring, public outcry obscured the one good thing to come from the rate change—the local introduction of the Parkmobile app. Put this on your phone and you’ll never again need to carry coins for the meter or stick your debit card anywhere it doesn’t want to go. You can even use the app to extend your time remotely. The funds are deducted from your credit or debit card, from your PayPal account, or from a “wallet” you can recharge the way you do your Starbucks card.
Seems right that Postmates should come to Las Vegas as our first medical marijuana dispensaries open their doors. Craving something from Lotus of Siam or The Goodwich? Postmates will pick up food from virtually any Valley restaurant and deliver it straight to your door, so you needn’t interrupt your binge TV viewing, intense game of Settlers of Catan or whatever.
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation,” says Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá. That quote appears on the webpage for TransitApp, which just might get you singing that tune. This seriously helpful app draws on real-time GPS data provided by the Regional Transporatation Commission to tell you exactly when the next bus is coming to the stop closest to you—a service that many big cities, including probably Bogotá, have long taken for granted. Bonus: Its big, blocky text is easy to read, even for fall-down drunks.
Love them or hate them, car hailing service Uber is coming back to Nevada. It’s badly needed here. We tried the RideGenie app, a taxicab alternative to Uber, and found it just as unfriendly and unreliable as local cabbies. Uber’s return means that we’ll be able to get a ride to the airport inside of 20 minutes, a local miracle if ever there was one. Just watch out for surge pricing.
Los Angeles drivers swear by Waze, a community-powered traffic app that not only warns you of traffic jams, but also stalled vehicles, construction zones, accidents, lurking traffic cops and even cheap gas stations. (It issues voice prompts, so you don’t have to look at your phone while you drive.) So effective is Waze’s cop-spotting functionality that police departments across the nation are trying to get it removed, saying it encourages “stalking.” It, um, probably undermines their ability to issue tickets, too. Maybe.
You’ve probably already got a weather app on your phone, but Yahoo Weather is so useful and so pretty that it warrants inclusion on this list. It presents the current temperature, hourly and five-day forecasts, wind speed and other, less useful data (precipitation, ha) as a scrollable cascade of information that’s close to art.
I don’t like Yelp, to be honest with you. I’m tired of the trolls and sock puppets who’ve made it an untrustworthy source and kind of a bummer to read. However, if you want to know all the taco joints or sports bars in a given area, it works just fine as a directory. That’s how I use it, taking pains to ignore the reviews. If I want to traffic in that sort of pathological, hey-look-at-me bullshit, I’ll update my Facebook.
BONUS APP: Neon to Nature
It might seem like base madness to you now, but soon will come a time—around October 1, perhaps—when you’ll want to go outside and take a nice, brisk walk or bike ride. When that day comes, use the Southern Navada Health District’s Neon to Nature app to find the trails closest to you. The app tells you which trails are suitable for both walking and cycling, which ones allow pets, which ones offer wildlife-viewing opportunities and so on. And Neon to Nature includes detailed listings for the trails of Mount Charleston and Lake Mead, because what’s the point of living in a city if you can’t get the hell away from it once in a while?