Make this the year your phone saves you time. Instead of wasting it with social media and silly games, The National staff has put together its list of the most helpful apps. Have anything to add? Send us an email at [email protected]
Dubai Now is invaluable for anyone who lives in Dubai. Every city in the world should have an app like this. It enables users to do pretty much everything that can be annoying with the minimum of fuss: including Salik and Nol top-ups, police fines, utility payments, charitable contributions and on-street parking.
Eleven topic headings cover everything important in life, such as public transport, education, security and justice, health, driving, business, residency, Islam and housing.
* Nic Ridley
Washmen is a really cool app for people, like me, too bone idle to do their own laundry.
A few simple taps will bring the friendly Washman driver to your home to collect your laundry (in one of their own bags). You also specify when you want your laundry returned. When it is, it is beautifully pressed and cleaned and packaged.
Washmen also encourage social-media participation – and you get rewarded for recommending their service to friends and family. I do.
* Nic Ridley
There are three great things about the Smart Drive app by Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA).
First, it is intuitive and easy to use, and there is much more detail than Google Maps. You search for your location, it maps a choice of routes, you pick the one you like and a voice – a woman with impeccable and un-annoying English – tells you exactly where to go (even which lane to be in). If you miss a turning, you are automatically rerouted.
Second, as long as you set your location while you have a Wi-Fi connection, you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it during the journey – it uses your phone’s GPS to guide you your end point.
Third, it is regularly updated so is better than a Sat Nav and, if you wish, it can also take you to “Facebook places nearby” or “Foursquare venues nearby”.
* Rosemary Behan
Whether you are the sender or the recipient, Fetchr is a speedy and convenient courier service for deliveries within the UAE. Drivers will pick up a document or package and deliver it, using your phone’s GPS to determine your location.
You can select the time-slot for the pickup and delivery, and track the journey of your package. It is a useful delivery tool for start-up brands and businesses – and for up-and-coming companies who sell goods through social media, Sellr by Fetchr allows for cash-on-delivery payment methods.
The company recently introduced Fetchr Now (currently only available in Dubai), which promises to send a driver to collect and immediately deliver a package within 45 minutes of booking the service.
* Hafsa Lodi
While in some neighbourhoods, there are mosques on every corner that broadcast the call to prayer loud and clear, some areas, especially within high-rise offices, are oblivious to the sound.
For those who try to pray five times a day, Muslim Pro is a useful app that lists the prayer times and sounds the prayer calls on your smartphone, wherever you are. It is especially useful as an alarm for the early sunrise prayer, which some people struggle to wake up for. If you would prefer a more discreet reminder, you can opt for a silent notification.
The app is also helpful while travelling, since in addition to the Quran, it features a compass to give you the prayer direction and timings no matter where you are in the world.
* Hafsa Lodi
Sometimes things get away from you, and all of a sudden you realise you need a cleaner straight away. Helpling ME promises to “book a cleaner in Dubai in just 60 seconds”.
The service is offered for Dh35 per hour, with a three-hour minimum, and charges for extras such as ironing or cleaning out the stove or refrigerator. You can even pay for the staff extra to bring their own cleaning materials, and it is easy to order cleaners on a one-time or recurring basis, either weekly or every other week.
Although the app is as yet only available in Dubai, the company is preparing to launch service in Abu Dhabi soon, so stay tuned.
* Ann Marie McQueen
This two-for-one app just keeps getting better and better. My friends refuse to dine anywhere we can’t use our Entertainers, and the app always saves us by providing ideas – particularly through the monthly offers section – whenever that whole “we can’t decide where to eat” vibe descends on us.
I was very pleased to get the Body version by jumping at the earlybird offer for my 2017 update. Last year, I had much more regular massages with their two-for-one offers and saved more than Dh2400 on dining out.
Late in the year the company also launched a way to share deals you have not used with other people, too.
* Ann Marie McQueen
Zomato looks more sleek and polished than other meal-ordering apps, and uses GPS rather than asking for location every time. It has all the usual filtering options but where it really wins out is during and after the ordering process. It takes credit cards and offers instant confirmation that the restaurant has received the order and can deliver it.
Once accepted, you get a fairly accurate estimate of the delivery time, and real-time updates on the status of your order. Most of my orders have arrived at or before the stated delivery time, sometimes a lot sooner than predicted.
If there are any issues with processing or delivery, a Zomato operator is on standby to quickly intervene on your behalf and will call to let you know what is happening.
* Liam Cairney
FoodOnClick is another meal-ordering app that offers a vast selection of restaurants to order food deliveries from, which can be filtered through by cuisine type, average delivery time, or promotion.
Some restaurants on the app also have a “best selling” category which can be helpful when trying out a new place or whenever you are unsure of what to eat. The app also has the option to pay with cash or credit.
Once an order has been placed, an email will be sent confirming it was received from the restaurant. There’s also a nice section for fast reorders which allows customers to repeat a previous meal they enjoyed.
* Evelyn Lau
Ministry of the Interior
I’m not proud of getting speeding tickets but inevitably, despite my best efforts, it still happens. I keep my mind at ease by checking in here every couple of months or so (you can search by licence-plate number) just to make sure I have not accrued any and missed a text message.
The app safely stores credit card information and makes paying a breeze. It also offers updates on criminal status (eek), long and short-term visas and information about other services the ministry provides.
* Ann Marie McQueen
Waze is a must-have for anyone who drives in the UAE. The community-based traffic and navigation app offers real-time road and traffic information, and has been a lifesaver since I arrived in the UAE.
Aside from showing drivers where to go, the interactivity of this app allows other drivers to log incidents that may affect other people’s road journeys. Users can log congestion and alert other motorists to accidents that may hold them up.
All you have to do is launch it, punch in your destination – an address or landmark – and it will calculate the distance and the time it will take, offering a number of routes. If you need a petrol station or car park, you can search for those too.
It’s reliable and accurate and the maps are updated regularly.
* Melinda Healy
There are several cinema chains in the UAE and not all of their websites are as user-friendly as they could be. Besides, who wants to trawl through several sites to find where the latest blockbuster is showing at a time that suits?
Cinema UAE is a simple but effective little app that displays a list of all films showing that day in every emirate (except Umm Al Qaiwain), where and when. You can also see at what’s showing on the next two days to plan ahead, and follow links to trailers and additional info about the films.
For some cinema chains, you can click on a showtime and be taken straight to the cinema’s online-booking site. For the others, you will still need to go to the chain’s own website to book.
This free app will not win many awards for snazzy design, the inevitable ads are mildly annoying (though there is an ad-free version for about Dh7), and there are still a few minor niggles, but those aside, this is a great one-stop app for planning your cinema trips.
* Liam Cairney
This app allows you to report almost any public problem you might come across in Abu Dhabi, from potholes or lights that out in the park, to rubbish pile ups, broken benches, hedges along walkways that need trimming, ongoing night noise, and much more.
I have had them all fixed by using the app to submit a photo of the problem, mapping its location and providing a short explanation. Problems have been solved in anywhere from one day to two months. But I always get a response – even if that response is just to say that a particular problem is outside the responsibility of public management.
* Laura Koot
I use Trans AD’s Darb app on my Android to find bus information, from which lines are closest to my current location, to timings and routes. Simply click on the app and hit the side tab for the bus icon. There you will find all the bus markers within 1.5 kilometres of your location.
The bus timings are pretty accurate, depending on the popularity of the line, but what I really like about the app is that I can check the map while on the bus and see upcoming stops for potential transfers.
However, the app should allow users to click on various buses at stops to see their exact routes (this was previously a feature, but now no longer seems to work). The app also still has a few issues with some of its features, including marking out bicycle paths, parking and allowing users to order taxis.
* LeAnne Graves