I’ve decided to move to London. I have no idea why — probably boredom. I just finished my end-of-year exams at college and have a whole summer to play with. The idea of moving country was fun until I decided to actually go ahead with it. Now it’s terrifying. Every morning I wake up, I remember I’m surrounded by 8 million people and that I know none of them. I have no family or friends in London. No job. Zero geographical knowledge. I’ve figured out the Oyster card though, so that’s good.
It’s dawned on me that my smartphone could be a good tool for getting around and avoiding awkward eye contact on the tube. So instead of researching bank accounts, national insurance numbers and other crucial information, I went on the Play store for apps to aid me in surviving my first few weeks in North London. Here they are.
Transport for London have a cool high-resolution PDF map of the underground system. Unfortunately, this is about as far as it goes in terms of official digital maps. The bustling crowd of Liverpool Street Station is the last place to be the stereotypical foreigner, lost and confused.
Interactive TFL map and station info
The app lets you select stations as a start and end point to a journey which will tell you how long it should take, and plot out any train transfers for you. You can also view live departure updates from any underground station which will display the next few trains and when they will leave.
The app works astonishingly well. Most third-party attempts at this kind of thing fail terribly but London Tube Map has been integrated well with the TFL real-time system, has no lag and some great GPS services.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link: London Tube Map Developer: Visual IT Limited
Apparently, not owning an Oyster card in London is a cardinal sin punishable by imprisonment in the Tower of London. Or death my violent mob at a ticket machine. Oyster cards are contactless cards used to access the tube, buses, river transport, Barclays bike scheme and a few others kinds of transport. Effectively, it’s your public transport debit card.
Check your account and find Oyster Card locations
London Oyster Balance acts as your online banking app allowing you to check your balance, schedule auto top-ups and view your journey history. Unfortunately, outside of the basics, other functions require you opening the browser to access the TFL website. However, the widgets more than make up for this, allowing for your balance to be displayed on your homescreen. Even though the app is basic on features, it looks and works well, and is quite handy particularly if you use public transport a lot — which in London is the main form of transport for the majority of people.
Finally, if your phone has NFC, you simply touch your oyster card to the back of your phone to launch the app. Initially the idea was to display your balance on the screen, but alas, the Oysters data encryption was too tough a cookie.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link: London Oyster Balance Developer: HAN Interactive
Once your Oyster card affords you access to the Tube, and you narrowly miss getting caught in the tube doors, you’ll need to quintessentially represent your socially awkward self by avoiding any social exchange or eye contact with your fellow passengers. Metro is a free newspaper distributed in different European cities that should help you keep your head low. The UK edition is often found blowing around tube platforms. So why not go digital?
Today’s and Previous Issues
An instant downside of the app is that each daily issue is around 30MB. On a 3G data connection, that could take a few minutes and end up costing a lot over time. Generally however, London is a WiFi free-loaders paradise so you could avoid using your monthly quota over it.
Each issue renders quite well and is broken up to make the articles easy to read. It also trumps the paper edition by having embedded video clips and audio files related to articles.
Articles are easy to read with images, video and sound embedded too.
The subscription settings are another big plus. You can turn on auto-download so that day’s paper is ready and waiting for you when you leave the house. Overall, this ia a great app that’s well designed and functions seamlessly.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 or above Google Play Link: Metro Digital Edition Developer: Associated Newspapers Ltd
The job market in London is huge and fast-moving — literally hundreds of jobs are posted and filled every minute here — so checking Gumtree once a day just won’t cut it. I love Indeed because of the way they syndicate all major job sites across the Internet into one helpful search engine. But it’s more than just a search engine. You can save and send your CV and set up automation features to alert you when jobs that match your criteria are posted.
Search for jobs posted all over the internet, right from your phone
The app itself is clearly an iOS port with a little of the mobile website thrown in. However it works well on Android and does everything it says on the tin. London isn’t a city where you want to be jobless so Indeed is definitely a requirement for newbie Londoners like me.
Price: Free Requires: Android 1.5 or above Google Play Link: Indeed Jobs Developer: Indeed
Unless you live in major US or European cities, Google Now tends to be hit or miss. I’m from Dublin, Ireland so I never really got the most out of it before now. It just showed me basic functions such as news and weather. In London however, I noticed that it entered a new league of awesomeness. For example, it detects your closest bus stops at any point and displays the real time departure updates.
Get updates to your phone all around London
News and weather are catered for with some other more social features such as photos shared by others in the vicinity. Google Now also plays nice with other Google apps such as calendar which reminds you of your next meeting or event. It also detects more important information, for example, if you recently received a flight itinerary from an airline, Google Now will display your flight info on the day of travel.
Price: Free Requires: Varies with Devices. Best on Nexus range. Google Play Link: Google Now Developer: Google Inc.
So, fellow Londoners, are there any other apps you couldn’t survive without while living in the capital?