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OMG how did I not know about this?? CityMint is an amazing food delivery app that actually allows food delivery straight to your picnic blanket in the park. The system uses geolocation to help the delivery guy or girl find you no matter where you are in the park. And there’s no extra fee! Park delivery is currently available on weekends in my two favorite cities: San Francisco’s Dolores Park (through Oct. 16) and NYC’s Central Park (through Labor Day).

But even in the off season, this is an awesome app. Imagine never needing to go through a stack of takeout menus again. The app saves your credit card info, integrates with Yelp, and even allows you to set up favorites. I’m not sure if it’s as comprehensive as GrubHub, but I’m definitely going to check it out.

(Yes, I order a lot of takeout. Don’t judge.)


Yesterday I fell in love with geolocation all over again. I found myself on the road again, this time in Nashville, and I decided to download the Mapquest 4 mobile GPS app ahead of time. Even though I’ve been to Nashville several times, I still don’t know my way around very well so I always rely on some kind of GPS system to get around.

But this time, I didn’t have to pay for it. The Mapquest 4 mobile app is AWESOME. It gives voice directions, it recalculates if you get off track, and it saves all input addresses for easy one-touch searching and finding. And it’s totally free, unlike most mobile GPS apps. It also has buttons to allow you to easily identify nearby restaurants, cafes, gas stations and hotels.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to take advantage of the search function, as I – unsuccessfully – tried to use it to find a nearby Fedex Kinko’s to make some copies. So instead I pulled up the Google app – which is also geolocated – and did a “search nearby” search for Kinko’s and found it right away. So I just entered in that address into the Mapquest field and there I was just 15 minutes later. Amazing.

Yesterday I had a very “smart” day. I rented a car, drove from NYC upstate to Hyde Park, presented at the Roosevelt Campus Network Summit, and drove back. Despite being an incredibly hectic day of nearly 6 hours of driving (this is a feat in itself since I hate driving), the most amazing part of all was that I relied solely on my phone (and of course my natural instincts) to navigate my way through the day.

I didn’t print directions. I didn’t rent a GPS unit. I didn’t print out an outline for my presentation. Everything I needed was all handily packed into my little phone. After I had dropped off my car and was walking home from the train listening to Pandora on my phone, I had to pause for a moment to consider just how unbelievably handy this little piece of equipment had been for me all day. (Interestingly, in Germany the colloquial term for cell phones is “handy.”)

Some might be a little sickened by how reliant people are becoming on their phones, but the sheer convenience of smartphones is pretty incredible. Also not to mention the fact that I saved paper and money:

1) I didn’t print directions or rent a $20 GPS unit, and instead relied on my phone’s built-in navigation system. (Next time I may try out a GPS app, maybe the free MapQuest one.)

2) I didn’t print my rental insurance, and instead saved it in Dropbox.

3) I didn’t print out my presentation outline, and instead emailed it to myself.

Of course, I would’ve been screwed if my phone had died, or if I had hit a pocket without AT&T wireless (which could’ve totally happened). But I brought my charger just in case, and knew I could always stop and ask directions if I was totally in a bind. But ultimately, it was a successful day, and – whether you like it or not – it was due in large part to my handy little phone.

Ever been in a situation where you really had to go but didn’t know where? A good friend of mine is notorious for always having this problem, and he’s earned the name “Whiz Master” as a result.

So leave it to Charmin to sponsor the app called Sit or Squat, which combines geolocation technology and a database of public bathrooms to help you find a bathroom no matter where you are. And for new parents out there – it even has a function that allows you to search specifically for bathrooms with changing tables, which I know can be super important to families on the go.

The most interesting feature of this app is that it allows users to post star ratings, photos and comments. Similar to Yelp, it also provides more info about the bathroom, including its hours, amenities (like seat covers and handicap access) and even contact information. And if you discover a bathroom or have a well-kept secret you want to share, it allows you to add to the database too!

One caveat: the app essentially lists any place (a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, museum) that has a bathroom inside it, so it’s not always going to give you an option where it would be appropriate to just walk in and use the toilet without going unnoticed. But, if you gotta go, you gotta go.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the scanners at Macy’s that enable you to find out the actual price of an item after all the discounts have been calculated. Not only is it empowering to know what an awesome deal you’re getting, but it also makes shopping much more fun and interactive.

There are several mobile apps that have taken this concept one step further by allowing shoppers to comparison shop, i.e., to scan a barcode and search the internet for all the stores and websites that have that item available for purchase.

As a born-and-bred bargain shopper, this is exactly the kind of app I’m looking for to simplify my life. So I checked out two free ones: ShopSavvy and Red Laser.

Both are similar in the way they use the technology. Basically, you use the built-in camera on your phone to “scan” any barcode for its information. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is, though. You have to hold your phone extremely still for it to actually register, and you need to be careful there aren’t any shadows in the way. The scanners also don’t work so well in dim lighting.

On both, once the barcode is registered, they come up with a list of prices and places where you can find that item (including websites and nearby stores). Each one has a couple unique features too. For example, ShopSavvy allows you to register for price alerts, in case you prefer to wait for an item’s price to drop, and RedLaser lets you email searches to yourself.

Of the two, my preference goes to RedLaser, though. It goes beyond just being a price-checker by offering additional useful information. For example, it’s got a book-scanning function that tells you if a book is available at your neighborhood library. But perhaps the most awesome feature of all is its nutrition and health facts function, which lets you know about food allergens.

Sorry, I’m the master of cheesy titles. I just can’t help it sometimes.

But really, think about it. Mobile apps are really changing the way we go about our everyday lives and interact with others. One thing that really gets me is that I now take for granted that my phone has built-in GPS. I can confidently go to a new neighborhood, city, or even country and know that I can easily make my way around and can probably find what I’m looking for. It’s amazing. Soon we’ll wonder how we ever were able to do anything without mobile apps. Some people already do.

Are we getting spoiled, or is this just a natural progression for communications technology? I began to ponder this after reading this article in the NY Times, in which writer David Pogue asked his Twitter followers to propose apps that don’t exist but should. Even though some people proposed some nonsensical ideas (“an app that puts my kids to bed at night”), many proposed ideas that seem ridiculous but are quite possible. In fact, some of the ones proposed, such as  “an app that tells me where the nearest public bathroom is,” actually already exist. Where will we be in 5 years?