Chicago iPhone apps reviews

Ten Chicagocentric applications that make Apple’s iPhone an on-the-go guide for exploring the city

Since the debut of Apple’s revolutionary iPhone almost three years ago, outside developers have been busy designing software programs—applications, or “apps”—specifically for the device; today, there are more than 100,000 available for download exclusively at Apple’s online iTunes App Store. Most one-time fees for these programs range from free to around $4.99 on the high end, although a few can cost much more, like The Concise Oxford English Dictionary for $24.99. Here, we review ten apps with a Chicago spin—the good, the bad, and the silly.

[ENTERTAINMENT]
Police Radio Chicago
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EVAN MILLER // $1.99  You could spend $200 at RadioShack for a police scanner or spend a fraction of that for Police Radio Chicago, which broadcasts cop chatter in real time. The app’s biggest drawback is that it doesn’t let you control the programming; rather, it randomly picks up feeds from the city’s 13 police dispatch zones, jumping from Galewood to Auburn Gresham at will. That can be frustrating, as you can’t stay tuned to a particular zone to find out if a cop’s suspicion of “blood in the car” is true. On the other hand, listening as the app spins around Chicago’s problem spots is a fascinating—if sometimes depressing—time waster.

USEFUL 3/5 | SLICK 4/5 | FUN 4/5
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[SPORTS]
Crain’s Chicago Golf Guide
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PSC GROUP // FREE  In the spirit of praying for warm weather—or at least not so cold—Crain’s Chicago Golf Guide is a great app for the weekend duffer. The app uses the iPhone’s location magic to find public courses near your current location and lists them by proximity. (For example, the app lists three courses less than 10 miles from my house and dozens within 20 miles.) You can also filter by price, course name, city, or course rating. But what makes Crain’s Chicago Golf Guide a hole-in-one is that it includes the price for a round of golf and cart fees, with a link to Google maps to take you there.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 4/5 | FUN 2/5
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[TRAVEL]
Buster
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ELECTROPUF // $.99  There is no shortage of apps for getting around Chicago, including Chicago L Rapid Transit to find the nearest el stop (and system map) and iTrans Chicago Metra to get Metra routes and schedules. But our favorite is Buster: The Chicago Bus Tracker. This app makes the CTA’s already incredibly useful bus tracking information much easier to read and use. Buster’s interface is so simple and intuitive you’ll find lots of ways to use it—for example, figuring out which of several route options will arrive first or estimating overall travel time when you need to make a transfer. Darn accurate, too.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 4/5 | FUN 1/5
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[TRAVEL]
Urbanspoon
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URBANSPOON // FREE  There are many good applications for finding restaurants and cultural events, including Metromix (listings and search), Yelp (maps connected to reviews by real people), and OpenTable (making reservations on the fly). But these pale in comparison to Urbanspoon, a city-by-city restaurant review and search application that got plenty of buzz when it launched as one of the first apps for the iPhone. Its restaurant-finding software continues to innovate: Now iPhone owners with the 3GS model can use “augmented reality” to find a dining destination. Using the “scope” tool, look down a street through your iPhone’s camera, and computer graphics instantly populate the live video image, including pointers to all the restaurants captured in that view (including price range and type of food) and their distance from where you are standing. Turn around and do the same thing in the other direction. Very cool.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 5/5 | FUN 5/5
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[TRAVEL]
Wright Around Chicago 2010
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SAGAMORE APPS // $1.99  A portable tour guide for Frank Lloyd Wright locations across Chicago and throughout the Midwest, Wright Around Chicago features 21 entries arranged alphabetically by name (Charnley House, Dana-Thomas House, Fabyan Villa, and so forth). Each listing includes highlights of the house or location and the price of tours or whether a site can be viewed for free from the street, as is possible for the Francisco Terrace Archway in Oak Park. The best feature? Just tap and receive turn-by-turn driving directions to each site, ideal for planning a Chicago day trip or a weekend visit to Wisconsin. Suggestion for the next version: Allow users to group the sites by location.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 3/5 | FUN 2/5
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[NEWS]
EveryBlock
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EVERYBLOCK // FREE  On the iPhone, EveryBlock uses the device’s GPS capability to pinpoint related nearby crime reports, entertainment options, news stories from local sources, user reviews of businesses, and even real-estate listings—basically, giving you the scoop for wherever you happen to be standing. So if you’re hanging out in Wicker Park one Saturday, you can peruse a Reader preview of the evening show at the Empty Bottle, find out where not to park, scan a Yelp rating about an intriguing restaurant, and get coupons from nearby retailers.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 5/5 | FUN 2/5
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[NAVIGATION]
Chicago
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DUBBELE.COM // $1.99  The best thing we can say about the Chicago map from Dubbele.com is that you can use it to mark where you parked your car. Otherwise, skip this app—and those by other mapmakers who claim to offer a street-level view of the city. How bad is Dubbele.com’s Chicago app? When we used it to find a bar near an address in Ukrainian Village, it offered a few several miles away but none within walking distance. Hello, this is Chicago.

USEFUL 2/5 | SLICK 1/5 | FUN 1/5
SKIP IT

 

[ENTERTAINMENT]
The Steve Dahl Show
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WIZZARD MEDIA // $2.99  Steve Dahl’s Dahl.com website features a blog, a podcast, a Twitter feed, a link to his Chicago Tribune column, and, of course, a store. Now he’s got the Steve Dahl Show app, through which he pipes a weekday podcast. Each podcast includes a brief description of the content (the day’s guests and usually a past Dahl radio triumph of some sort). Not much else offered—unless you want wallpaper of Dahl’s logo for your iPhone.

USEFUL 2/5 | SLICK 1/5 | FUN 3/5
SKIP IT

 

[SPORTS]
Chicago Cubs Trivia
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APPTIA // $.99  Apptia’s Chicago Cubs Trivia app gives rapid-fire questions about former players, the team’s history, and recent events. Of course, true Cubs fans might scoff at how easy some of these questions are. For example, “How many career home runs did Ernie Banks hit?” 512. Duh. But there are good ones in there, too, such as, “Whom did the Cubs trade to the Phillies in 1982 to obtain Ryne Sandberg?” Ivan DeJesus. Silly but fun. (Sillier still: For 99 cents, the White Sox Finder app will use the iPhone 3GS’s compass feature to point its graphic version of home plate toward the Cell.)

USEFUL 1/5 | SLICK 1/5 | FUN 4/5
GET IT

 

[UTILITIES]
MultiCam Chicago
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STANTON SOFTWARE // $.99  If you missed Roz Varon’s morning traffic report on Channel 7, you might not know that the tie-up at the Circle Interchange is heavier than usual or that the Kennedy and Edens junction is running pretty smoothly. But with your iPhone, you can access the fixed highway cameras that traffic reporters like Varon use to spice up the broadcast. MultiCam Chicago taps into the area freeway system to give you frequently refreshed snapshots from cameras placed at key points along all major highways.

USEFUL 5/5 | SLICK 3/5 | FUN 2/5
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