As technology develops faster than ever, it can be hard to keep up with the latest and best mobile phone applications, or apps, in town. About three years ago, the iPhone craze hit China and we wrote a list of the best apps to have. Since the ability to download apps has spread across multiple brands of mobile phones, it is about time for another round-up of Beijing’s best apps. Without further ado, this is our updated list of Beijing’s most useful mobile phone applications.
Photo: Jason Howie
1) Dididache 滴滴打车
Have you noticed how, recently, although many taxis are available, the majority of them refuse to pick you up? Blame this app; drivers prefer to pick you up if you have booked through this app, rather than being flagged on the street. This is especially so if you choose to offer the driver between 5-15 RMB more for the ride.
As the newest bane of our existence, it is definitely time to get this app and keep up with the Beijing life. This app allows your location to be sent to various taxi drivers in the area, and one to agree to pick you up and drop you off.
It’s simple to use, if you have basic knowledge of Chinese. Simply leave a voice message with your desired destination, or you can switch to keyboard to type it (great for those not as confident about their Chinese speaking). Then press search and a taxi will be found for you, generally within a few minutes. There is also a button for reserve (预定) which allows for a booking in advance (at least 30 minutes).
The only concern with this app is that once after using it, I received a cryptic call from a taxi driver and had no idea what he was trying to say. But that is just a risk of living in Beijing.
2) Baidu Maps 百度地图
Quite naturally, Baidu Maps is by far the best maps app to use in Beijing, and throughout China. However, not everyone is aware of all the functions the app has. When you press onto the search bar, a whole list of options appear ranging from food (divided into the different cuisines), hotels, supermarkets, coffee shops and KTV (always handy on a night out). It will list those closest to you.
However, the most useful parts of this app lie in its ability to point out ATMs (and you can even specify which bank you prefer), and public toilets, which has proved itself extremely helpful on a night out in the Beijing hutongs. Once you select any of the options, the map points out matches closest to you, and further information for each of the venues. For the food venues, for example, Baidu Maps shows an average price, a phone number, opening times, rankings, and a list of some of the most popular dishes on the restaurants’ menu.
3) Beijing on a Budget
Beijing on a budget seems more aimed at tourists, but has a good collection of places to go and things to see. Through a filter, it is easy to look at the different categories (ie shopping, sights, traditional Beijing cuisine, etc) and go through all the options. Check out the comments for other users’ responses and even more suggestions. You can even ask the app creator questions, and it seems like he regularly responds to users’ queries.
This app does have a good list of free things to do, and is even good for those of us who have been living here for a longer time, as we all need the occasional reminder to further explore the place we call home. Basically, it’s perfect if you want to be a tourist for a day.
4) Party in Beijing
The most recent newcomer on the Beijing app scene – this app is a pretty solid roundup of all events and parties that are on around Beijing. Including specific notifications for bigger events (which of course, can be turned off), each listing has all the information you need in order to get to the party you want to be at.
And, impressively, it has an option for emergency numbers, including major embassies. This is a pretty great addition considering the fact that many foreigners living in China do not know the local emergency numbers. Also, there is an option to look at listings for many popular venues across the city, and play the directions out loud for the taxi driver. This is a pretty good app to have if you are new to the city or do not speak Chinese, or if you get into an emergency situation.
This app focuses on music events around town. It gives the full list of music events for the next few months, including links to ticket purchases. If you create an account you can specify which events you like, and it will show you how many other people have specified that they like the same events.
Music events can be categorized and listed by location, date, popularity and performers. On top of that, you can filter to see only the events that you like. This app is really useful to navigate the realm, find out where that band you really enjoyed is playing next and find the link to buy tickets for the show.
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