5 Great Barcelona Mobile Apps Worth Checking Out

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The much-vaunted Mobile World Congress rolled into Barcelona a few months back. All across the self-proclaimed smart city, posters hung from lamp-posts (even the Gaudí-designed ones), radio adverts talked it up and, most annoyingly, taxis which normally battle it out for business (seriously, I saw the drivers almost come to blows on more than one occasion) were suddenly packed with passengers.

MyTaxi Barcelona

As the 80,000-strong tribe of suited and booted delegates debated the future of mobile technology – in, of all places, Hospitalet – it occurred to me that now might be a good time to mention the apps I find most useful, living in Barcelona.

So here we have attempt number two. I sincerely hope I’m not tempting fate.

In such a switched-on city, you would think it would be hard to pick only five apps. It wasn’t. There is a plethora of dross out there. Battling through the banal and bloody-difficult-to-use, here are the five best Barcelona apps I actually make use of on a regular basis.

1.     Transport – myTaxi

One of my biggest bugbears about living in Barcelona is the “no of course you can’t pay by credit card, stupid young wench” mentality, which seems to abound anywhere and everywhere across the city. I’m not exactly a fan of stoating about laden with cash, given Barcelona’s rep as carterista central (not to mention the fact I’ve been pickpocketed and mugged twice) so anywhere offering the ability to pay by credit card has my vote.

Enter myTaxi. Just plug in your destination and desired method of payment (cash, card or even pay over your mobile), the app does its thing and a couple of seconds later you’re greeted with “we’ve found you a driver!” Lo and behold, his (or her) mug shot pops up and you can see who’s on their way to get you.

The first time I used myTaxi, I was slightly sceptical. The Mobile World Congress or other massive trade fair aside, cabs across the city are generally ten-a-penny, and I imagined the app would be yet another short-lived denizen of my dashboard.

However, a middle-aged gent rolled up at my doorway, and positively beamed enthusiasm and courtesy throughout the whole journey. Dropping me, my wayward Spaniel puppy and her massive metal crate off in a decidedly dodgy part of the Raval, he waited outside, unprompted, after I’d left the cab, and even rushed back to help me when he saw me struggling to get inside the building. I was impressed.

Passengers are encouraged to rate their driver after each journey, and you can store your ‘favourites’ for future trips. Needless to say, the monopolistic taxi companies of Barcelona, like those of the other European cities where myTaxi has launched, haven’t taken too kindly to the new pretender on the block. Until they get their act together and move into the 21st century, I’m sticking with the app.

Best bit: being able to pay by credit/debit card/through the app itself.

Cost of app: free.

Platforms: available on both iOS and Android.

2.     Exploring the city conventionally – TimeOut Barcelona

Interior of the Sagrada Familia“The app savvy travellers have been waiting for”. This is how TimeOut markets its series of city-licking apps. Pushing the ‘local’ aspect (“expert local knowledge in your pocket”), TimeOut points out that its content is put together by on-the-ground experts, which can never be bad.

This is a fairly full and fancy overview of what’s going on across the city. The ‘what’s nearby’ section lets you home in on stuff a stone’s throw away, while the ‘top 10’ and ‘editor’s picks’ within each category mean you can quickly compile your Barcelona bucket list.

Although I’ve seen most of Barcelona’s sights and attractions after two years of living in the city, I do find myself going back to this app pretty regularly. Its comprehensive coverage is especially handy for discovering different districts, especially if you’re at a loose end and need some inspiration.

Best bit: “inspire me”. Plus it’s really easy to navigate.

Cost of app: free.

Platforms: iOS only.

3. Exploring the city unconventionally – BCN Paisatge

This one’s a real favourite of mine. Much less mainstream than the info you’ll find in TimeOut, for example, this one serves up the city’s secrets, letting you really get under its skin.

Sant Feli Neri square

Hit ‘landscapes’ and you’re confronted with a list of unique urban features, such as the shrapnel marks pitting the walls in the plaza of Sant Felip Neri, or, even more eerily, the hole in the wall where destitute parents passed their babies through to the orphanage on the other side (Carrer de les Ramalleres).

The ‘shops’ section name drops the weird and wonderful of Barcelona’s businesses, from where to go for authentic artesan bread to your options for Modernista pharmacies.

Best bit: the ‘near me’ section. Great if you’re bored and want to see something quirky that, given this is Barcelona, is likely just around the corner.

Cost of app: free.

Platforms: iOS only.

4. Shopping – decompring

With my Luddite-like tendencies, it took me a while to get my head around this one, but I’m now a firm fan.

Basically,picture of decompring app the app gives you rewards for shopping. Not a bad concept.

These rewards come in the form of ‘compris’, virtual money, which you build up as you look at the offers available from the listed shops or actually go to the shops to scan the barcodes of the products on offer.

There’s quite a range of shops that take part in decompring, such as supermarket chains like Condis, shoe shops like Zapaterías Tino González or bookstores like the mighty La Casa del Llibre. (You can use the filter to find the specific type of product you’re interested in – food, sports, petrol, clothes, etc).

Once you’ve built up your ‘compris’ you redeem the virtual money for gift vouchers or for actual cash, which will eventually make its way to your bank account.

Best bit: you can do the honourable thing and donate the money to an NGO instead of cashing it in (although sadly, for the moment the list of charities is somewhat limited.)

Cost of app: free.

Platforms: both iOS and Android.

5. Running – Barcelona Corre

Developed by the ajuntament, Barcelona’s city council, this is a nifty wee app that only appeared a couple of months back. My early experiences attempting to go out for a run in Barcelona were less than successful (accompanied by constant catcalls and smutty gestures from the local males), but recently I’ve been adopting a ‘sod the lot of them’ mentality. Frankly, if I paid attention to the moronic male population here I would never leave the house.

Barcelona women's 10K runThe first screen you see is slightly intimidating, featuring a fit chick sprinting along Barcelona’s promenade, while the app immediately cuts to the chase (sorry) and demands your age, weight and height before we proceed. (It’s even more intimidating when it’s asking for the info in the metric form. No frigging idea.)

That hurdle over, you’re presented with 23 possible running routes grouped into three sections – different city districts, arranged thematically (parks and gardens, chilly days) and more challenging runs. There’s also a section dedicated to the most popular races that take place frequently across the city.

As an incentive, complete one of the 23 routes and you’re awarded a virtual medal stored in the app. Ideal for acquisitive souls.

Best bit: despite being developed by Barcelona’s Catalan-speaking city council, the app does offer the option of changing the text into either Spanish or English. (This isn’t as self-evident as it sounds, believe me.)

Cost of app: free.

Platforms: both iOS and Android.

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