Sacramento: Is there an app for that?
I downloaded five Sacramento-specific mobile apps to review to find out if there is truth to the famous slogan "There’s an app for that." I had a mixed bag of results, with some useful and some novelty.
The app encourages its users to explore Midtown, helping them find parking, taxi service, restaurants, boutiques and other needs. It also keeps users up to date with neighborhood events, sales and friends’ updates and tweets through an in-app tab for Twitter and Facebook.
Upon opening the app, I was pleased by the clean outline showing 12 different icons representing the different options to choose from: events, eats and drinks, entertainment, galleries, health and beauty, nightlife, shopping, specials, parking, transportation, banks and ATM, and services.
The events feature of the app shows past, current and future events in the Midtown area, with descriptions, photos, ticket prices, contact info, driving directions to the venues, and what I liked the most: the option to integrate an event to the users’ calendars.
Have one too many to drink and no one to drive you home? This app lets the users, through its transportation option, easily pick a cab service, complete with addresses and contact information of the companies.
The parking feature of the app shows public parking in the area on a map. It also allows users to get directions to the parking lot through the phone’s GPS. This is one of my favorite features of the app, although I would want to see the following improvements: display parking hours, number of parking spots and price information.
I was disappointed that most of the stores featured in the app do not have descriptions other than their addresses and phone numbers. It would be nice to know the different services or unique items the stores have to offer before heading down to visit. Most of them have "Description to come" as their description.
Pros: It’s free and has tons of features on everything in Midtown.
Cons: It lacks information on most stores, there’s no Yelp integration with stores or a way to review them.
Bottom line: Get it, it’s free! It is very helpful in finding things to do in Midtown to live, play and party.
Ease of use: 5/5
Ibreathe displays air quality information for 15 areas and cities in the Greater Sacramento region. Users can toggle from a map to list view of the areas with their corresponding air quality grade for the day’s and week’s forecast. Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District provide the data for the air quality ratings.
The app shows a map of Sacramento and surrounding areas. The user has an option to view particulates or ozone rating for the 15 areas and cities divided, which are divided in 10 different sections. Each section is represented by a color representing air quality: Green is good, yellow is moderate, orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups, red is unhealthy, purple is very unhealthy, and magenta is hazardous. This information is all included within the app, and it gives a complete description on what each color or warning means.
I find this app to be very useful for people who have asthma or other health conditions where air quality is a concern. It also gives do’s and don’ts for people with respiratory problems if they are in an area of unhealthy air quality level.
The feature I like the most is the ability to program the app to send its users notifications if air quality for the areas they have picked reaches a dissatisfactory air quality level.
Pros: In-app information is extensive, from health effects to tips on how to spare the air.
Cons: Lack of in-app ability to tweet or forward advisories to contacts.
Bottom line: Get it. It’s free and helps users be aware of the air quality.
Ease of use: 5/5
Price: 99 cents
The description of the app says it "displays the traffic cameras provided by the California Department of Transportation." Through this feature, the app aims to shorten commuting time for Sacramentans by allowing them to view traffic for more than 30 freeway and street intersections.
It is true that the app displays the traffic through the cameras. It is just a shame that it is not a live video feed, but a still image of the freeway. The app developers were careful not to indicate this information on their app description, because for most, like myself, it is a dealbreaker between a novelty and a useful app.
The photos displayed are usually a minute or two off current time, with some, such as Interstate 5 at 25th Avenue being delayed by days (The photo showing is time stamped Dec. 18, 2011 as of Tuesday.)
The app also crashed twice in five days of use.
Pros: You have an app that takes pictures of freeways.
Cons: No video feed.
Bottom line: Do not buy unless developers make live video feed available.
Ease of use: 2/5
Price: 99 cents
The app provides a map of the Sacramento region with animated radar readings provided by the National Weather Service, similar to what TV news reporters use to tell the weather forecast.
It claims to be an easy way to see the weather on the app description, but I find this untrue. A regular Joe is better off with the built-in weather app provided on most smartphones, which is straightforward in giving the weather forecast for the day and the week.
If you are interested in meteorology, the app does provide graphic and color-coded dBZ or decible measures of reflectivity provided by the radar. The color represents degree of rainfall. What those numbers mean is not included in the app. The users have to Google search them themselves.
The lack of information on how to use the app makes it really frustrating. I even checked the developers’ website for information on how to use the app, but to no avail.
Pros: Great graphic interface.
Cons: No instructions on how to use or interpret readings.
Bottom line: Stick with the built-in weather app on your phone unless you know how to read weather radar.
Ease of use: 2/5
Transit Guru Sacramento
The app provides schedules for the Sacramento Regional Transit District’s rail and bus routes, provides an offline map of Sacramento with bus and train information.
The app provides departure and arrival time for the chosen route. I like that it not only tells the users how many stops the bus will make from departure to arrival, but also shows on the map the locations of each stop, the user’s current position and the option to set an alarm for a certain number of minutes before arrival time.
The users can also favorite a route for quicker access. Two offline maps are also provided: a central city map, showing routes within downtown, and a system map showing routes for the rest of the city. These two maps are useful to have just in case a cellular network is not available or for iPod touch users with no data service.
Another great feature of the app is quick access to train advisories by selecting the advisories tab. Unfortunately, there is no automatic notification option for this feature. Users have to manually check for advisories. These advisories can be information on delayed train arrivals, which is always good to know.
The only problem I came about using the app is with its Yelp integration. The feature is supposed to find nearby restaurants, boutiques and other attractions from the user’s current train station. When it works, it’s great, but when it does not, the stores featured can be as far as Massachusetts.
Pros: Offline and online map availability.
Cons: Yelp integration needs work.
Bottom line: For $1.99, if you use public transit daily or twice a month or more, this is a must-have.
Ease of use: 4/5
If you have a Sacramento-specific mobile app, please let us know on the comment section below.