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I live in Boston, and there’s an app for that: 5 must-have apps for Bostonians

Posted by Alex Pearlman  November 12, 2011 06:15 PM

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smartphoneappsiphoneappsandroidapps.jpgBy Whitney Prior

As someone who is never without my iPhone, I can say with some level of confidence that I know a thing or two about what makes an awesome mobile app. And since an iPad is out of my budget and my laptop is packed away when I’m on the go, this knowledge often comes in handy. Phone in hand and on a small budget, I’ve learned to breathe easier, live simpler, and get places a heck of a lot quicker with the help of a few fantastic apps.

Here are five must-have apps for Boston residents.

whereapp.pngWHERE: Your personal guide to Boston. Boston is full of eclectic neighborhoods, happening local bars, and renowned restaurants, but what good are the city’s best jewels if you’ve yet to discover them? WHERE helps you experience Boston like never before. The free app is “especially helpful when you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood and want to discover your next favorite restaurant,” said Tom O’Keefe of BostonTweet. “WHERE tells you everything that's around you, from restaurants to museums to movie theaters.” In addition to nearby eateries, bars, and attractions, the app shares local offers, nearby coupons, and -- my personal favorite -- gas station prices. Available on all smartphone devices.

swackett app.jpgSwackett: A meaningful weather forecast. If there’s one thing that sets Boston apart from other major cities, it’s the relentlessly unpredictable weather. And since no one likes dressing for work in short sleeves and jeans, only to walk into a snow squall on your lunch break, I suggest Swackett. This easy-to-use app analyzes complex AccuWeather data and provides you with a visual representation of the forecast. The app doesn’t flood you with meteorologist language that’s over your head; instead, it actually shows you an image of what to wear depending on the forecast. The practical interpretation of weather, fun graphics, and simple user interface make this app a must-have for Bostonians who live in constant fear of random rain, snow, or heat. Swackett is only available on the iPhone. Use a different smartphone device? Don’t be left out in the cold. Get a more traditional forecast on the go with The Weather Channel or WeatherBug app.

grubhubapp.pngGrubHub: Food wherever you are, whenever you want it. Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter during finals week, furiously preparing for an early-morning interview, or partying until an hour that would probably upset your parents, we’ve been there: It’s late at night, and you’re starving. Never fear -- the GrubHub app will help you find food quickly! See which restaurants are currently open, find out who delivers, view menus, read reviews, and place an order all within the app. From there, an awesome customer service team tracks each order to ensure the food you want gets to where you are. Need more convincing? The GrubHub app stores multiple addresses, previous orders, and payment information, making future food orders that much faster. Available on iPhone and Android devices.

catchthetapp.jpgCatch the T: Because no one likes waiting.  I used to be mildly entertained by the sight of professionals running in heels towards a train, only to miss the open door by a few seconds, but as soon as I became that person, the situation lost its humor. Waiting for the next T to arrive is similar to waiting for water to boil: You're absolutely certain it’s going to happen any minute, but, alas, it does not, so you continue to watch and wait. Be in-the-know and on time with Catch the T, an independently developed mobile app that leverages the MBTA’s location data to provide real-time arrival information for Orange, Red, and Blue Line trains. (Sorry, Green Line-ers; try Open MBTA instead.) A simple user interface paired with close-to-perfect arrival times means no more waiting in the cold (or heat). Don’t ride the T? Catch the Bus offers coverage for all of Boston’s MBTA bus routes and is available on iPhone and Android devices. Catch the T is available exclusively for iPhone.

zipcarlogo.gifZipcar: When driving is required. With the exorbitant cost of parking in Boston, it’s no wonder owning a car isn't always practical or popular. Fortunately, Zipcar and other low-cost, hassle-free car sharing services are available so you can rent a car for four hours -- or four days -- when your destination can't be reached by bus and your goods can't be carried in two hands. "As someone without a car in the city, a lot of the apps I use revolve around transportation," said O'Keefe. "With [Zipcar], you can locate cars available for rent, reserve that car, open the door, and drive away, all via your mobile phone.” Here’s a fun tip: If you can’t locate the car you just rented, use the app to honk the car’s horn. It’s that easy. Available on iPhone and Android devices.

What other apps help you navigate city life?

Photo by A Leslie Wong Blog

About Whitney -- After spending my childhood in Maine, I moved to Boston, graduated from BC, and became one of the city's many outspoken, overachieving, and underpaid young professionals. A social media marketer by day, lifestyle blogger by night, and photographer by weekend, I'm delighted by new media, easy recipes, budget-friendly home decor, and breathtaking landscapes. I'm rarely without at least one of the following: my iPhone, my camera, a good beer, or glass of wine. On a good night, I'll be spotted with all four. You can find me on Twitter @whitneyprior.

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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