App Pupil: Jazz Fest and streetcar apps



You can customize your own schedule.
  • You can customize your own schedule.
Welcome to an irregular feature of the blog, App Pupil — in which we'll look at New Orleans-related iPhone apps. (I don't have a BlackBerry or Android, but if you do and want to review or recommend an app, please do so in the comments.) Today we have two free apps — Streetcar and the official Jazz Fest app.

JAZZ FEST: This in-your-pocket guide to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is about as complete as can be: you've got a schedule that can be searched several different ways, a map, a guide to the food booths (with vegetarian selections clearly marked) and crafts tents, and optional integration with Twitter and Facebook. There's even a button marked "Radio," which brings up not WWOZ, as you might imagine, but a Internet radio station on programmed with Jazz Fest artists (Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, etc.).

But it's the schedule that's the real winner: you can read musicians' biographies, take notes or a photo, and — best of all — construct a personalized schedule by hitting the green + sign next to the artist's name. Toggle on over to "My Sched" and you've got your schedule in chronological order. Genius.

The only drawbacks are so minor they're barely worth mentioning: the app button is colorful, but it doesn't say "Jazz Fest" at a glance, and the main page of the app requires some scrolling, which isn't immediately clear. And the radio feature often delivers a mysterious message: "Station Exhausted: Due to licensing restrictions, this station cannot continue at this time. Please try again later."

Still, if you've got an iPhone, grab this app... it will give you something to do when AT&T service craps out at the Fair Grounds, as it seems to do at any large New Orleans gathering.

Yes, its a schedule, but its hard to read.
  • Yes, it's a schedule, but it's hard to read.
THE STREETCAR APP: An interactive guide to New Orleans streetcars is a great thing to have in your pocket, and the Streetcar App is a good start, but it falls short in a number of areas.

First of all, it only covers the St. Charles line; no red streetcars. There's a schedule (in teeny teeny type), but the killer feature on public transit apps in other cities is the ability to use GPS to find when the next bus or streetcar will be at your stop. There doesn't seem to be any way to do that here, unless and until the RTA equips all its public transport with GPS (which — given Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Southern Silicon Valley, world-class-city ambitions — should be a priority; other cities have had this for years). Instead, this app uses the GPS from your phone to tell you what the next stop will be, and suggests nearby attractions, stores and restaurants you might like, plotted on a Google map. (I kept getting error messages, but maybe you'll be luckier.)

There's also a fare calculator (far less useful than a plain table of fare prices would be — most people can multiply $1.25 x 2) and a general guide to riding the streetcar, which a visitor might find very useful. But the biggest problem with the Streetcar App is that it crashes roughly half the time. It's free, so it might be worth a download to see if the developer improves it, but right now there's not much here that's going to be useful to anyone who rides the New Orleans streetcars on a regular basis.

If you know of a New Orleans-based app we should look at for App Pupil, drop us a line.

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