It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly the smartphone began its foray into the global market, but there’s no doubt that it is now one of the most popular and in demand pieces of technology to date. One of the most appealing aspects of the smartphone experience is of course, the countless number of apps available for download and what they have to offer (or in other words, how they make our lives much easier). Whether you’re a resident of Taipei or just visiting, here are some apps that will come in handy as you explore the city.
Ever find yourself in a situation where you desperately need to send an e-mail or look up directions to a restaurant but couldn’t because there was no Wi-Fi? For all you 3G users, this app may be irrelevant, but for those of us who rely solely upon Wifi hotspots to access the internet when we’re not at home, Skype Wi-Fi is a useful app that comes in handy especially in those most desperate cases. Skype Wi-Fi let’s you use your Skype credits to access local Wi-Fi hotspots on a per-minute basis, meaning there are no data restrictions. In Taipei, Skype Wi-Fi works with a variety of network providers such as WIFLY and hinet, which are pretty much available all over the city. Do be aware of the cost of each network before you connect though as they do vary quite a bit. Connecting to WIFLY via Skype Wi-Fi is significantly cheaper at $0.06/minute than connecting to other providers which can cost up to $0.20/minute.
Unfortunately, access to music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify are blocked here in Taiwan due to licensing restrictions. Songza’s website is also blocked, but Songza’s iPhone app, on the other hand, seems to work just fine (although it is only available through the US app store). We’re not entirely sure why, but we’re not complaining either!
What is Songza, you ask? Songza is a music streaming service much like Pandora, but with a cool twist. What sets Songza apart from other services like Pandora and Spotify is that it lets you choose from preexisting playlists curated by Songza’s music experts based on your mood and the time of day. Using the “Concierge”, you pick a specific mood or activity. After this, you can then select a genre of music and then a suggested playlist of your liking. Let’s say you’re commuting on the MRT after a stressful day of work and in need of some chill therapeutic tunes to go along with the ride. You might select “Unwinding After a Long Day” as your mood/activity and then “Evening Jazz” as your preferred genre. “Cool Jazz For Warm Nights” sounds very appropriate for Taipei, but since I’m in the mood for some Brazilian jazz, “Classic Bossa Nova” it is!
Availability: iPhone, Android
There are many Chinese-English dictionary and reference apps out there but none as clean, stable, and function-laden as Pleco. Pleco is a very versatile dictionary that let’s you search for a definition in Chinese, pinyin, or English. There are also a large number of in-app add-ons, some of which are free and some that aren’t. One of the coolest and potentially useful add-ons is the Optical Character Recognizer which allows you to instantly look up Chinese characters using your smartphone’s camera. All you have to do is point the camera at the desired Chinese characters on say, a poster or textbook, and the app will instantly recognize them. Of course, this works best on printed text and does not provide the most accurate results 100% of the time. This particular add-on does come at a high cost of $14.99, but is quite worth it if you often need instant translations while out and about.
Price: Free; in-app purchases vary
Availability: iPhone, Android, Windows
Messaging apps have gained much traction in the tech world over the past two years, especially in Asia. In Taiwan, LINE is now the new Whatsapp. LINE is somewhat of a newcomer compared to the popular Whatsapp and South Korea’s Kakao Talk, but has exploded on to the smartphone messaging scene, especially here in Taiwan. Don’t believe us? Just ask your local Taiwanese friends what app they use most to chat with their buddies and most likely, the answer will be LINE. Part of LINE’s appeal is the wide selection of cute stickers and emoticons built in to the app that you can incorporate into your conversations. Check out the images below to see why LINE is our preferred way to message our friends.
Availability: iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry
One of the things we all love about Taipei is how convenient the transportation is here. 台北好行 is the official transportation app released by the Taipei City government and is probably most useful for checking bus lines, times, and routes. All you have to do is select the bus number and the app will show you how long before the next bus arrives at your stop. For those of you who drive or ride scooters, you can also stream live video feeds from street cameras to check the traffic conditions. The app is only in Chinese, but there are enough graphic icons and visuals for anybody to feel their way through it. Trial and error, right?
Availability: iPhone, Android, Windows
Know of any other useful smartphone apps? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Feature photo via Chinasmack