At one time, students arrived at Columbia with nothing in their backpacks but textbooks, notebooks, and a Macbook Pro. Such halcyon days are long gone now, and we’re sure that many members of the Class of 2015 have iPhones and Droids. Bwog’s own app aficionado Peter Sterne identifies the perfect app for…
Navigating the City
Hopstop (iPhone/Android) is the gold standard of subway and bus directions. Google Maps will work in a pinch, but Hopstop will get you from A to Brooklyn the best way possible—whether you want the cheapest route, the fastest route, or the route that involves the most walking. If you want to cut down on walking, make sure to check out Exit Strategy ($3.99, iPhone), an app developed by Columbia alums that tells you where to stand on the subway platform so you’re right in front of the door that will open right in front of the stairs at your destination. The developers didn’t get that info from the MTA; they had to figure it out through trial and error.
Speaking of the MTA, they like to randomly shut down and reroute subways on the weekends. iTrans ($3.99, iPhone) includes the latest service changes, but you can also just view them for free by bookmarking the MTA’s mobile website.
Remember the time you went out to dinner and couldn’t afford the bill because you didn’t have enough money on your debit card? You could constantly go to the ATM every time you go out, but it’s much easier to download an app from your bank to check your balance on the go. Citibank (iPhone/Android), Chase (iPhone/Android), and Bank of America (iPhone/Android) all offer mobile apps. These apps can also find nearby ATMs and even let you make payments from your phone.
(Note: The only way to get the Citibank Android app is to go to citi.com/mobileapp on your Droid)
Finding New Music
Frats usually play whatever’s most popular on iTunes, but at least once over the next four years, you’ll find yourself at a party with no idea what song is playing. That’s where Shazam Encore ($5.99, iPhone/Android) comes in. Just turn it on, hold out your phone, and in a minute, the song and artist will be identified for you. It’s like magic!
Soundhound ∞ ($6.99, iPhone/Android) is similar, but identifies songs more quickly and less accurately. If you want to try before you buy, download the free trial versions of Shazam (iPhone/Android) and Soundhound (iPhone/Android). And on those rare nights you’re not invited to parties, you can discover new music on your own by creating custom radio stations on Pandora (iPhone/Android).
Figuring Out Where To Eat
Not sure where to eat? Just shake your phone and Urbanspoon (iPhone/Android) will randomly select a nearby restaurant for you to try. If you want to narrow down your choices, you can select a specific neighborhood, type of food, and price point. If you need even more control, try Urbandaddy (iPhone/Android), which lets you specify the neighborhood, time of day, type of cuisine, restaurant atmosphere, and even the kind of people you’re going out with, before showing you nearby restaurants that match your criteria.
After you find a random restaurant, be sure to check out how other customers have reviewed it with Yelp (iPhone/Android). Not impressed with the pedestrian opinions on Yelp? True culinary connoisseurs will appreciate the professional reviews from the Michelin Guide ($4.99, iPhone). Once you’ve decided where to go, make a reservation with OpenTable (iPhone/Android). Or if you just decide going out isn’t worth the hassle, head back to your dorm and order takeout with SeamlessWeb (iPhone/Android)
Discovering the City
If you’re feeling lost outside of Morningside Heights, you need a guide to the city. Why not check out The Scoop NYC (iPhone), a guide to New York written by some of the people that know it best—the staff of the New York Times. If you prefer the judgment of magazines to newspapers, check out check out Goings On (iPhone/Android), a guide to the city written by the staff of the New Yorker. The best guide to the city is probably written by our fellow Columbians at Inside New York, but sadly they don’t have an app yet.
Looking Up At the Stars
The Astronomy department holds occasional stargazing events (attendance at which usually gets you extra credit in Frontiers of Science), but with Star Walk ($2.99, iPhone) you can stargaze anytime. Just hold your phone up to the sky and it will overlay star and constellation names over your screen so you know what you’re looking at. You can even see a simulation of what the sky would look like in non-visible wavelengths (like ultraviolet and infared). Google Sky Map (Android) will also identify constellations, but lacks some of the fancier features.
Sometimes Columbia can seem like a boring place, especially if you’re waiting in line at the Package Center or desperately trying to avoid writing a paper. When you need to waste time, you can shoot birds out of a slingshot in Angry Birds ($0.99 for iPhone, iPhone/Android), slice pieces of fruit while avoiding bombs in Fruit Ninja ($0.99, iPhone/Android), direct incoming planes to landing strips in Flight Control ($2.99, iPhone/Android), and cut rope in Cut the Rope ($0.99, iPhone/Android).
Understanding New Languages
Google Translate (iPhone/Android) is invaluable in foreign language classes, and plain old Wikipedia (iPhone/Android) comes in handy during Core classes when your classmates try to use as much academic jargon as possible. Outside of class, Urban Dictionary (iPhone/Android) is essential given all the slang that Columbia students constantly use.
And Last But Not Least, Being A Columbia Student
myColumbia (Android) – This brand-new app, developed by SEAS student Carlos Zavier Hernández, lets you log into Courseworks, search CULPA and the class bulletin, read the latest headlines from us, Spec, and Columbia’s home page, and even listen to WKCR. If that’s not enough, it also lets you call Public Safety (both emergency and non-emergency numbers), and the developer promises it will soon let you register for classes on SSOL, view free laundry machines, and even track Public Safety shuttles! The simpler Columbia University (Android), developed by CC student Ariq Azad, just lets you search CULPA and the course bulletin, read Columbia news, and view different campus maps.
Phone triumvirate from Wikimedia Commons