Tuesday, July 28, 2009

iPhone Dog-friendly App Review

The number of dog related applications in the AppStore is growing everyday. There are apps for tracking your dog's health, simulating a clicker noise, storing your doggie pictures, and most importantly for finding dog-friendly locations and services. Over the last few months I've been testing four applications that help you find dog parks and other locations: OffLeash, PetMD Finder, Eukanuba Off Leash, & Fido Factor.

OffLeash was one of the first popular dog park applications. The application was developed by The Casual Game Network and apparently was acquired by Eukanuba. Overall this was clean and simple app that only listed official off-leash parks. I didn't find it very useful in San Francisco since I already know where the main dog parks are and what I really want to discover is the hidden gems. However, I did use it once successfully when I was on a weekend adventure with my dog in Santa Cruz.

Eukanuba Off Leash has taken the The Casual Game Network's app and spiced it up with their own branding. The vibrant pink color is attractive and overall the user interface is very pleasing. The app gives you the ability to search by zip code or current location. Once you find a park you can save it to your address book, email it, view on map, or get directions. Unfortunately, there is no meaningful information listed for parks (water, fence, etc) and no pictures. For my local area I've been disappointed that many parks are missing. There is a prominent suggest feature that lets you email Eukanuba new locations. However, I find that I'm not very motivated to spend the effort to add new locations. Overall this is a good free app to have on your phone but don't expect too much from it.

PetMD Finder is the most feature rich dog-friendly application I've used. The app lets you search for daycare, parks, sitters, walkers, clinics, groomers, and hotels. Again, you can search by location or zip code and view the results as a list or on the map. Much like Eukanuba, their data is often lacking but I'm a bit more tolerant because they have such a variety of data. Also, their process for adding a new location is much easier than other applications because it has structured fields and utilizes the GPS. However, there is a major technical issue with this application that makes it almost unusable; the search functionality frequently gets hung up trying to connect to the server. This seems to occur on both the cellular network and on wifi. I would not recommend this application until the developer resolves this issue.

The most recent addition to the list, and by far the most useful, is Fido Factor. The Fido Factor app lists all types of dog-friendly locations including bars, parks, attractions, restaurants, and more. The dog-friendliness of these locations is rated in "bones" and "Fido Factors" which include availability of water, outside seating, poop bags, leash rules, and more. In addition to the application, Fido Factor has a great new website were users can write reviews and share them with friends through Facebook Connect. The application currently covers the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston with more national locations being added every day. In the meantime, users can add any U.S. location which will then show up on the iPhone app. As an added bonus, Fido Factor makes a donation to the SPCA every time somebody adds a location or writes a review.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dog-friendly Honda Element

Now if only they made a normal looking dog-friendly car. I'll take a dog-friendly CRV please.