Around London with iOS (Part 2)

8/23/2012 9:35:25 PM

Down the tube: Even die-hard Londoners can often be seen peering at a tube map, trying to work out the shortest route between unfamiliar stations. London Tube (69p) automatically plans your journey, although its non-zoomable map makes it a little tricky to use. We prefer (69p), which allows you to choose if you want to travel by bus, tube, overland train or another method, gives clear instructions including timings, and includes a database of places of interest as well as stations.

Description: London Tube (69p) automatically plans your journey, although its non-zoomable map makes it a little tricky to use

London Tube (69p) automatically plans your journey, although its non-zoomable map makes it a little tricky to use

Route planning is just part of the whole tube experience. Say you’re standing outside a station, and you want to know whether you have time to grab a sandwich before you go down to the platform. London Tube Boards (free) gives an instant readout showing the expected arrival times and current location of trains at a particular station, although you have to know what line the station is on in order to find it. Tube Tracker (69p) has a better search function and gives you extra information on the status of each line.

Experienced tube users will know where to stand on their home platform so they’re opposite the exit when they get to work. You can have the same insider knowledge with Tube Exist (69p), the product of painstaking practical research. Tell it where you want to go from and to, and it will not only give you a choice of routes, but will show you which carriage to get on to beat the rush off.

Incidentally, while most of the Underground network is out of reach of 3G, Virgin Media is installing wifi on a number of stations – rising to 80 over the summer – which for the moment is free of charge, although later it’ll be restricted to paying customers. Find out more at

On the buses: London Tube Deluxe,mentioned above, gives route planning itineraries for buses as well, and is the perfect way to navigate the city’s confusing bus network. While today’s London buses may not be the design icons they once were, they do have the big advantage of letting you see the city while you travel. The catch is that you have to recognise where you are when you get there. Tube Deluxe shows all the stops on a scrolling map, so it’s easy to see which one is closest to your destination.

Description: London Tube Deluxe

London Tube Deluxe

But how long will you have to wait until a bus arrives? In central London, most of the stops have indicators that show when the next one is due. You can access the same technology for all the stops in the capital via Bus Checker ($2.99). This app displays due times for every bus at every stop, with the ability to find the nearest bus to your location and to store your favourites so you know how long you’ve got before you have to set out – and it’s remarkably accurate.

Whether you travel by bus or tube, the simplest way for regular users to pay is with Transport for London’s contactless card, and the Oyster Card app (free) is a good way of checking the amount of credit remaining.

On your bike: London is a great city for cycling, except for the traffic, fumes, pedestrians and roadworks. You can predict how long each journey is going to take, irrespective of the weather or traffic jams, and be sure of parking right outside when you get there.

A couple of apps make the experience better. CycleStreets (free) uses the cyclestreets. net database to plan the quietest, most cycle-friendly routes through the capital (and, indeed, the rest of the UK). The problem with the app is that the Map view is too small to be read while cycling, while the Itinerary view, showing the turnings as a list of streets, gives no indication of which way to turn when you arrive at each street – you have to switch to the map view to see this information, which is plain daft.

Description: Cycle Streets – London Cycle

Cycle Streets – London Cycle

If you don’t have your bike with you, you can always hire one. The Barclays cycle hire scheme uses stations of bikes all over the city, with rental from just £1 a day for as many trips as you like – as long as no trip lasts more than 30 minutes, after which extra charges are applied. Besides the official Barclays Bikes app (free), there are several apps that tap into the Transport for London database, revealing the location of cycle stations. We like London Cycle(free), which spatters a map of London with coloured dots: the larger the dot, the more cycles available at that location. Tapping a dot will show how many cycles are there, how many spaces (essential when you need to drop a bike off) and at what time the last reading was taken.

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