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Review: New York Times' free iPhone app, "The Scoop" NYC guide

By John Walton     Filed under: iPhone, apps, New York, new york city, city guide, iPhone apps, travel guide

The New York Times has entered the crowded iPhone travel guide app with The Scoop, its guide to everything in New York City. It's free -- which surprises us, since the NYT has been at the forefront of trying to charge to read its stories online.

Since the app is from the Times, it's authoritative, upmarket and yet accessible to people who are not native New Yorkers. It also scales well up to the iPad.

That makes it perfect for the visiting business traveller when hunting for the perfect place for a business lunch, deal-clinching drinks or a spot of downtime.

But what works well, and what doesn't? Here's what we liked and didn't like about The Scoop.

Eat, drink and be caffeinated

Dining and drinking options in New York change with the seasons, and visitors to NYC are often all over the city and need to know where the best local coffee is.

That's one of the things this app does best. The restaurant function allows searching by cuisine, location (both neighbourhood and GPS "near me" function) and price -- and the listings are critic Sam Sifton's top fifty restaurants.

The bars -- checked with our favourite bartender in Hell's Kitchen on the West Side -- are up to date, decent recommendations for a drink.

Theatre, concert and other event listings

The New York Times is renowned for its feelers into the New York event scene. Its unsurprising strength is the opera and classical offerings, but the jazz and gig information is equally helpful.

The Scoop app combines the Times' reviews with exact location information, which is absolutely vital for finding some of the smaller venues listed.

Only in New York

Business travellers in New York will love this collection of quirky, New Yorker things to do. 

From hosting a business lunch at the UN Delegates' Dining Room to relaxing at a Korean Day Spa, or heading up to the northern tip of Manhattan to enjoy the Cloisters museum (one of the most important collections of mediaeval art in the world), the app has great ideas for every part of your trip.

Day trips from the city

The noise and clamour of New York is amazing, but sometimes business travellers want a bit of peace and quiet. For that, getting out of the city is priceless.

There are some superb suggestions in the app, including some great ideas on Long Island and up in the Catskill mountains.

(Don't forget: we have our own suggestions for a weekend away from New York City.)

Maps and GPS 

Rather than try to re-invent the mapping wheel, the NYT has gone for a well-integrated Google Map system.

It uses the familiar red pins to identify locations, and tapping on the pin brings up information about the bar, restaurant, event or other listing.

The "near me" function reportedy works well according to New Yorkers who've used it -- obviously, being 8000 miles away the "near me" function didn't really work for us when we tried.

Downsides

We do have a few criticisms of The Scoop, though. The app feels a bit sluggish, even on our iPhone 4. There's often a few seconds of delay moving from screen to screen, which is a bit disappointing (and not what we're used to for high-quality apps like this).

Since it's free, it's unsurprising that there are ads dotted around -- but these are in the form of occasional full-screen ads rather than paid listings interspersed with recommended places.

Overall, though: an excellent app, especially for free.

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About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

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