THE HOOPFEST APP
Why we love it: It tracks everything, from teams to outhouses.
Use it for: Navigating the Hoopfest chaos.
The Scoop: Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, takes over Downtown Spokane for a crazy weekend every summer. How crazy? More than 7,000 different teams crazy. Good luck finding your son's team in that mix. Until, of course, the advent of the Hoopfest app.
At the flick of a finger, you can track your favorite (or least favorite) teams, find cool events, and find everything from the Lost Child Tent to first-aid stations to honey buckets to available parking lots. How did we survive before this? It even lists the STA "hoop loop" — where the buses drop people off — and Uber stops so people could get to the events easier.
The app was a smashing success at 2015's Hoopfest. And Hoopfest is looking at even more upgrades for the app next year, seeking ways to more efficiently handle the traffic created by a quarter-million people.
Why we love it: Because we love good drinks, but hate paying full price.
Use it for: Finding that perfect bar to rant about the boss after work.
The Scoop: Few things can make a person less happy than heading out for a Happy Hour, and finding you've arrived at an hour that has ceased to be happy. If only you could have easy access to information on all the area happy hours directly on your smartphone. If only you could instantly see a list of nearby happy hours, pegged to that day, from your phone. If only you could sort by price, genre of food and neighborhood.
Good news. Your happy hour dreams have come true. Navigate to the Inlander home page on your smartphone, scroll down, and add the Drinkspotter to your home screen. Click on the bar or restaurant, get a mouth-watering description of the establishment, and instantly see happy hour specials.
Those without a smartphone can get the same cool info by going to inlander.com/drinkspotter
Why we love it: History is even cooler when it happened right where you are.
Use it for: Making yourself your own tour guide of your city.
The Scoop: As you wander around the streets of Spokane, tread lightly; you're standing atop years of fascinating history.
Unless you take a local historian out drinking with you, how are you supposed to know about the legacy of the Spokane Coliseum? Or the initial Monroe Street Bridge that was so shaky, Ringling Brothers' elephants refused to cross it? Or the Colville artist who forged the Salmon Chief sculpture? Or the site where a Spokane police chief was gunned down in his own home? Or why Taft, Idaho, was called the "sewer of sin" by future president William Howard Taft? Or why Spokane University didn't last 20 years? Or how I-90 destroyed the economic prospects of the East Central neighborhood? Or how an illegal dumping site became the famed (and infamous) People's Park? Or where Spokane's first legal hanging took place? Or why there are not one but two buildings in Spokane resembling giant milk bottles? All this, mapped to the location you're standing on.
QP QUICK PAY
Why we love it: We hate pocket change.
Use it for: Beating the meter maid at her own game.
The Scoop: Spokane recently (finally) upgraded its downtown parking meters with the ability to pay by credit cards. The city not only caught up with the present, but went a bit into the future as well: It now allows smartphone payments.
You don't have scrounge around the seat cushions to find a few nickels to fill the meter. You can get your receipts electronically. You don't have to get out of the car in the rain to feed the meter. You can get an automatic alert when your time is about to expire. Best of all, you don't have to run out to the car to frantically extend your meter, then plead desperately with the meter maid for more time.
Quick Pay, many of the reviews stipulate, has sometimes been dogged by bugs and slow load times. But when it works, it can save a lot of time.
Why we love it: Riding the bus works best when you know exactly where you're going.
Use it for: Carefully planning out your route, down to the second.
The Scoop: Of course, if you're riding by bus, finding a parking spot isn't a problem. Figuring out when — and where — your bus arrives is. At this point, the Spokane Transit Authority doesn't have its own app. Fortunately, STA sends its transit data out, allowing a whole host of other apps to use it to plan a route. I used the TransitTimes app to — within a few seconds — find the quickest way to ride the bus from the Inlander offices to my parents' North Spokane house.
There are plenty of other similar options, from Google Maps to Bing Maps to Moovit to HERE. The days of fumbling over complicated route-sheet timetables are over, thankfully. Once STA upgrades its buses with streaming location data, via GPS, riding transit will be more convenient than ever. (And if STA ever gets its much-desired "Central City Line" built, it'll be faster than ever as well.)