Today being Groundhog Day, I dearly wanted to find an appropriate app to highlight in this week's trio. But the only groundhog-themed app I found in iTunes is a simple 11-tile slide puzzle of a cartoon groundhog staring at his shadow (and whether the rodent saw its shadow today or not, I get the sense we're in for six more months of winter) I can't believe it costs 99 cents. It looks to be as much fun and challenging as tying your shoes, even to a five-year-old.
More appropriate to this season of snow storms in general, I've picked three apps to aid your potentially weather-impaired travel and to create a home worth coming back to.
Exit Strategy (JWeg Ventures)
If you don't live or frequently visit New York City, feel free to skip to the next blurb. This $3.99 iPhone app is the handiest travel aid only for the five million daily riders of the New York subway system, which is rarely affected by the snow and slush above.
The idea is simple. Your point-to-point travel time can be trimmed considerably if you know which car in the train or, more precisely, which door in which car – stops right in front of which subway station staircase that brings you out the street exit closest to your final destination. You also get pinch-and-zoom subway, bus and local street subway entrance/points-of-interest maps.
A brother and a sister traveled the entire system and did all the mapping themselves. You can read all about it and them here.
There are versions for BlackBerry ($3.99) and Android ($2.99) which lack the local maps. Hopefully the team will bring Exit Strategy to other subway'd cities such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Earlier this week, my friend Ken regaled me his travel tale of horror, trying to flight home from the Consumer Electronics Show. He was returning to New Jersey by way of the beautiful Charlotte airport, which was experiencing usual winter weather which had forced the delay of all flights – the airport had run out of not often used de-icing spray. In all events, Ken had to find a place to stay over-night in Charlotte. With a dying cell battery, he ended up calling his wife to help out, but he could have used this handy free emergency app.
Most other travel sites are made for booking more extensive stays, and most shut down their hotel availability at midnight. HotelTonight keeps it simple: you get three discounted hotel options – hip, basic and elegant – each day per city. Listings are available until 2 am, although I'm sure there are plenty of travelers who find out they're stuck after 2 am, so the developers may want to re-think even that extended limit.
Not only is the app free, but you get $25 off your first night when you register, and $25 for each person you refer who then books a room.
Just out of beta, the initial cities being serviced are limited to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., with Las Vegas, Miami and Seattle to be added at some point.
Hmmm, I guess this app wouldn't have helped my friend Ken in Charlotte after all.
Dream Home HD (Apalon/MYW Productions)
Tired of staring at your apartment with deep pile carpets and a couple of paintings from Sears, a big waterbed you bought with the bread that you saved for a couple of years (extra credit for identifying the song reference)?
Time to redecorate with some ideas gleaned by the gleaming interiors in this $4.99 fantasy interior decorating iPad app.
You can browse through gorgeous high-res photos of imaginatively designed bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms (some beautiful, some spectacularly ugly, which is which I'll leave to your exquisite taste), by color scheme or style, and peruse articles on design trends and DIY tips. You can browse or view the rooms in a slideshow, all with music accompaniment from your own collection – Pachelbel's Canon in D is always nice to create an elegant dreamy atmosphere. And you won't tire of the app – it's updated with new photos and articles at least once a week.
All you need is some more of those household savings and spacious 1,000-square-foot rooms.
Apalon also offers a supplementary iPad app, Dream Office HD (99 cents).
Oh, the song reference: "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel.