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September 07, 2015

Eight must-have apps for Philadelphians

Apps to help you navigate and improve the City of Brotherly Love

Technology Apps
090615_CyclePhilly CyclePhilly/

CyclePhilly user data visualized in map by trip-type, courtesy of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

For all of the simplicity smartphones have introduced into contemporary life, there's still plenty of guesswork and sleuthing that can go into the planning of routine events. Maybe there are also great ways to crowdsource the experience of city residents to improve services and amenities for everyone.

You may not always have the luxury of time to coordinate important details, but your smartphone offers the luxury of access to local information and services that can help speed things along and eliminate headaches.

Here are eight must-have apps and web applications for Philadelphians to better explore the city, plan more effectively and improve our understanding of how we inhabit the place we call home.

GPSMyCity - Philadelphia


Take guided tours categorized by theme with GPSMyCity - Philadelphia (Source: GPSMyCity)

As creatures of habit, people tend to find routes that work best for them and stick to them. When they venture in other directions, it tends to be either for a specific purpose or completely by accident. GPSMyCity helps provide some structure to the way you navigate the city, with an emphasis on attractions, sights, restaurants and shopping.

The app includes a detailed and fully functional map designed to help you "lose yourself without getting lost" on guided GPS tours. This includes architectural sites, landmarks, museums, nightclubs and multiple shopping routes. As well as you know your way around, this app will teach you a thing or two you didn't know and provide the refresher you probably need anyway.

iOS • Android


Maybe you prefer to learn about the city a bit more spontaneously. Local mapping software firm Azavea and have you covered with their augmented reality app that provides access to an a database of more than 93,000 historic Philadelphia photos.

Take a look at Market Street in the 1800s and track the evolution of Broad Street by pointing your phone at nearby buildings and streets. Developed in collaboration with editors from the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Amy Hiller, you can also call up blurbs with historical information about several locations recognized in the app.

iOS • Android



Paying friends and family back can be highly impersonal, which sometimes delays the process, but Venmo can fix that issue (SOURCE: Venmo)

This social payments app, created by former University of Pennsylvania roommates Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, takes the pain out of settling accounts with friends. Venmo offers a secure platform to pay or receive money from practically anyone, pulling funds from either your bank account or Venmo itself. You can conveniently pay for dinner, send a birthday gift or make an overnight transfer all in app that will help keep you organized and on time.

iOS • Android

Cycle Philly


CyclePhilly allows bikers to submit their route information, improving how the city designs bike policies. (Source: BicyclePhilly)

Bikers continue to grow in numbers in Philadelphia, which means the city could use some help understanding which routes are most heavily trafficked and which routes cyclists really prefer. Developed by Code for Philly, the app embraces the ideal of modernizing citizenship in Philadelphia. Users specify the type of trip they're taking – commute, social, exercise, The Circuit, errand, etc. – and the route information is mapped to assist The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in prioritizing improvements.

iOS • Android

Credits Explorer


Property owners can use the web app to plan a renovation that will save money and help city infrastructure. (City of Philadelphia/Water.Phila.Gov)

Saving money on your water bill isn't just an exercise in preaching moderation for property owners. With the Philadelphia Water Department's new Credits Explorer web application, users can make hypothetical modifications to their property to calculate how much they would save on their monthly Stormwater Management Service charge, which is applied to all non-residential properties.

Test out a permeable pavement, a rain garden, and underground basins to gauge how much stormwater you could conceivably absorb to save money and prevent excess runoff in the sewer system.

'Bike Life' by Meek Mill


Local rapper Meek Mill jumps in on the celebrity app game. (Source: IM3 Gaming)

No list of great apps would be complete without at least one game, and while local rapper Meek Mill has lately been in the headlines for his beef with Drake, he deserves props for Bike Life.

The addictive freemium game, a variation on Temple Run, involves zooming through Philadelphia-themed streets to evade police and avoid obstacles like SEPTA buses and PPA patrol cars. Developed by Meek Mill's DreamChasers and IM3 Gaming, "Bike Life" players collect gold coins and power ups including Pumas, gold headphones and ATVs. Play in either "Mission" or "Challenge" mode and keep an eye out for a growing roster of rapper characters.

iOS • Android



New app provides range of concierge services at Philly restaurants. (Contributed Art/Reserve)

The latest app to reach Philadelphia is Reserve, which will open up a range of concierge services directly from your smartphone. In its early stages, the app will be supported by 22 restaurants in Philadelphia, including Heritage, Distrito, Amada, Fork, and the big names of Sbraga, Vetri, Garces, Vedge, and Zahav. Reserve a table for a $5 concierge fee (free until October 13), split or pay your bill, and tip your server.

The only feature intentionally left out of the Philly Reserve app is reservation bidding, which local restaurants agreed stands in the way of a fair and equal process that reflects the city's reputation for Brotherly Love.

iOS • Android

Philly Tap Finder


Find the beer you've been craving with this web app. (Source: Philly Tap Finder)

Sometimes, after gazing at your phone all day to supposedly make life simpler, the only thing you really want is a cold beer. 

This glorious web app will help you track down craft beers at bars and restaurants through the greater Philadelphia area. If you're tired of defaulting to the same routine, use this app to explore various categories of beer and venue type that will be your north star to the brew you're seeking.