Around London with iOS (Part 1)

8/23/2012 9:34:13 PM

Millions of londoners will desert the capital this summer, if their Olympic grumbling is to be believed. All the more room for the rest of us. But whether you’re just visiting or using the occasion to take a fresh look at the city where you live, these 50 apps will help you find your way to the best bits. All aboard!

Description: Around London with iOS

At some point, everyone has to visit London. It’s a giant magnet that exerts its inexorable pull on even the most distant provinces – or, as Arthur Conan Doyle less charitably put it, ‘that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained’.

Today, the traveller can still arrive at Paddington station, but should be armed with more than just a label marked ‘Please look after this bear’. An excellent choice of apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch will help you navigate the public transport system, both above and below ground; walk, drive and cycle around the city; hail a cab when none is in sight; and track down places of interest, both on and off the beaten track.

And it’s not just tourists who can benefit. Even those of us who’ve lived in London all our lives can benefit from the canned expertise that puts more than a taxi driver’s knowledge in your pocket. If you want to navigate and negotiate the capital like a pro, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several hundred – but we’ve winnowed them down to some of those we reckon are the best in each of the essential categories.

Getting around

Walking: One of the best ways to navigate London on foot is to use the Maps app that comes as part of iOS. Although the current Google-derived software is due to be replaced with Apple’s own mapping technology, it’s simple and effective. Tap Directions and use the icons that appear at the top to switch between driving routes, pedestrian directions and public transport – although in London the last is ignorant of every form of transport except the tube. But the walking option works fine. To switch from lines on a map to a list of directions, tap the turned page icon at the bottom right and pick List.

If you have an iPod touch or wifi-only iPad, which lack built-in GPS, iOS can still triangulate your position with reasonable accuracy thanks to its controversially acquired database of wifi networks, which operates regardless of whether you actually connect to wifi. This works best in densely populated areas, so London is ideal. The lack of 3G reception on these devices, however, is a drawback, because even though iOS may know where you are, it can’t show you unless it has a data connection to load the map. Plan your route at a hotspot first, and even if you wander off the edge of the map (having zoomed in) before finding internet access again, the List view will be there to keep you right.

While Maps’ maps have to be downloaded constantly as you go, alternative apps store them on your device, so they’re still available when the internet isn’t. A favourite is TomTom (from $59.99), with maps covering everything from the UK to the whole of Western Europe; it’s great for walking as well as driving. If you don’t fancy that kind of outlay, try the A to Z the map every Londoner owns, which is now available in iOS versions from $2.23 for the central London tourist edition to $16.49 for the whole city.

Description: Maps – TomTom – London Tube Deluxe

Maps – TomTom – London Tube Deluxe

You’ll also find offline maps included in many of the city guides in the App Store. One of the best is the Lonely Planet Travel Guide (free), which offers a wealth of information about London together with comprehensive mapping as a $5.99 in-app purchase.

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