The Pursuit Of Appyness

A survey of smartphone apps for Cincinnati residents and visitors

Mar 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

As anyone who has a smartphone can tell you, the “app” is becoming the new Web site. Soon, if your business (or museum or band or nonprofit, etc.) doesn’t have an app available on iTunes or from other online application retailers, you might as well revert to communicating with the public via smoke signals.

Despite Apple’s overly repeated catch phrase, “There’s an app for that,” there isn’t quite one for everything just yet. As thrilling as the technology is, there are plenty of things that remain app-less, even when it seems like a logical fit. But check back often — app development is moving at hyperspeed.

There are still plenty of useful apps to help you navigate– the city or just have a little time-wasting fun. The Cincy-centric apps available tell an interesting (if incomplete) story of Cincinnati culture, as well as where we are in the history of app development.

Best App For Local History Lessons

The Remarkable Ohio Historical Marker App is indeed pretty remarkable for those wanting to learn about the many historical events, big or small, that have occurred in Cincinnati (and all of Ohio). With its interactive map, you can look up hundreds of official historical markers around the state, such as where the first glass oven door was invented, one of the first Kroger stores was built, Albert Sabin’s polio vaccine was developed and the U.S.’s “first link” of nuclear development was designated (Fernald). Besides the GPS-assisted location services, this app is excellent because you can read the text from each of the thousands of markers without leaving the house.

Best App with Animal Instincts

For local attractions, the Cincinnati Zoo has been ahead of the curve when it comes to app technology. With the Zoo’s app, you can read about the animals on view, find out when you can watch them be fed, check out podcasts and videos about Zoo activities and even find your friends if you get separated. Though an interactive map (and zoo-wide free Wi-Fi) would be nice, the Zoo’s app is great for the basics and a nice tool for getting around the park.

Best Sports App

High school sports are huge in the Tristate area, but there’s nothing quite like the obsession with Elder. It’s been said that graduates of the West Side high school usually end up living within a 20-mile radius for the rest of their lives, but even the few who manage to move away can keep tabs on their favorite teams with the Elder Panther Mobile Sports app. The free version of the app has news, scores, video and more related to all Elder sports, but for the real Panther die-hard, the $3.99 version includes live video simulcasts of sporting events.

Best College App

Colleges seem like natural breeding grounds for cutting-edge app development. Northern Kentucky University has developed a trio of useful apps for students — a mobile “FlashCard” study guide, a basic admissions guide and a more extensive general guide that even teaches the lyrics to the NKU school song. While Xavier has no app presence, the University of Cincinnati’s app for its campus newspaper The News Record is the best college app for students wanting to know what’s going on around campus as well as on it.

Best Local App Celebrity

Who knows how much longer Cincinnati’s most flamboyant celebrity this side of Bootsy Collins will be living in town, but Chad Ochocinco is the star of two popular apps. The “Ochocinco Official App” has candid photos, the Bengals receiver’s appearance schedule, a direct link to his popular Twitter feed and OCNN, which is apparently a collection of news stories that interest Chad. With the NFL season in jeopardy, this might become Chad’s best way to communicate with the public (unless another awful reality show comes calling). If the real Chad isn’t active on the playing field next year, you can always play with Mad Chad, a fittingly bizarre video game app where you try to help No. 85 catch … the thieves who stole his pigeons.

Best Reds App

For some reason, the MLB and NFL don’t seem interested in the world of apps. You’ll find plenty of third-party apps that compile info for individual teams, but there’s no, for example, “Official App of the Cincinnati Reds.” Instead, you can relive some of the Reds’ glory days through the app of baseball’s greatest catcher, Johnny Bench. Why Bench is seemingly the only Reds legend to have his own app is anyone’s guess (maybe he has a tech-savvy cousin or something), but it has some cool vintage photos, videos, a “fanwall” to write on, the latest Bench news and a rundown of his many accomplishments.

Best New Happy Hour App
Coming Soon

We here at CityBeat would already have launched our flashy new happy hour app, but every time we dive into the research necessary to provide the most comprehensive local mobile bar guide around we end up super wasted. What can we say? We’re really good at research? The app will offer a vast database of local bars, clubs and happy hour deals searchable by date, neighborhood, entertainment and food and drink specials, among others. Hundreds of establishments will be represented, including every bar featured in our recently published Swizzle bar guide.

Best Museum Tour App

Though it’s made by a national company that develops almost identical apps for museums all over, the app for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center might just be the best-built overall app available to city dwellers and visitors. The app provides a full-service tour of the museum dedicated to the dismal days of slavery and the uplifting rise out of them, but it isn’t just for casual perusing on your couch. The intuitive, user-friendly app is designed to be taken with you while you tour the museum, offering audio clips about all of the displays on exhibit.

Best Arts Activity App

Though an app featuring info on all of ArtsWave’s sampler weekends (and other activities) would seem logical, the local arts-supporting organization went a different route with its first app. The org’s iSpyArt app is a clever game that gives out regular themes for a virtual art show. Users set out into the world to take a photo representing the theme, then all of the pics are collected in a virtual gallery for everyone to see. It’s a fun concept and nice way to get the public involved in the arts, one of the main goals of ArtsWave.

Best App for Tourists

While I expected more from Betsa Marsh’s Cincinnati Essentials app because of all the press it received, the app is perfect for visitors coming to Cincinnati and looking for things to do. Essentially a guide book in app form, Cincinnati Essentials features a searchable, interactive database with info on everything from bars and restaurants to architecture, parks, arts and other attractions. Each entry has some basic info, but the best feature is the GPS-enabled map, which tells you how far a particular spot is from where you are right then and there, and how to get there.

Best App to Find Cheap Gas

The app for TV channel Fox19 has everything you’d expect — headlines, weather, lottery numbers and traffic updates — but perhaps its most useful function is its gas price feature. With oil hotspots mired in political turmoil and wars and the recession making everyone watch their pennies, it’s nice to be able to call up how much the gas stations nearest you are charging and where to get the best deal.