Mobile applications are becoming a staple in cities across the country as a growing numb
er of businesses expand their services to on-the-go access.
Pittsburgh, a hotbed of emerging local and corporate businesses, already is accessible through a variety of smartphones and tablets. And professionals, relying nowadays on a variety of mobile apps, are leaving the door open for further developments.
Pittsburgh Social Exchange member Beth Caldwell, executive director of business development group Pittsburgh Professional Women, regularly handles financial transactions on her iPad. Swiping customers’ credit cards during book signings with Square, a credit card-reading app, Caldwell now is able to keep her income under her thumb.
“With 320 sales, I can’t be sitting here writing down all the credit card slips,” she said, referring to sale numbers during a recent book signing. “It’s been tremendous for my company. And that’s the truth to success: Making things easier.”
Banks, among other businesses, are vying for customers in the mobile domain, pointed out WTAE-TV news anchor Andrew Stockey.
“Businesses nowadays are trying to be much more responsive to their customers,” said Stockey, who regularly keeps tabs on his finances through an app provided by his bank on his iPad. “You can’t afford to be on the sidelines with this.”
But remaining up to date on Penguins, Steelers and Pirates game scores through downloadable apps offered by the sports teams also is a priority for the 17-year Pittsburgh-based newscaster.
“I know my iPad is my life,” he said. “It’s like my briefcase -- everything is in there.”
Mobile applications, downloaded typically for a nominal fee of. $.99 on mobile devices, are not bound strictly to professional affairs; a thriving mobile market is spurring development.
Bargain-hunters, for instance, can rack up discounts at American Eagle in the Southside, among other corporate clothing stores, just by entering the store with the Shopkick app, which tallies up redeemable points by scanning and purchasing merchandise and entering participating stores. And drivers searching frantically for available parking spaces Downtown are able to uncover spots with the ParkPGH app, a GPS-guided parking space locator.
PSE member Constantine Scoumis experiments occasionally with Google Goggles, a visual search engine for iPhones and Androids that, through a photograph, identifies users’ surroundings, including various locales and merchandise.
“If you’re not familiar with a town and you use those, it will tell you everything that’s around,” he says. “Yeah, there’s really a lot of cool stuff out there.”
Scoumis, an accountant by day at ATA Associates, P.C. in McMurray and an author by night, now is using a tax converting app on his Android phone to determine his clients’ tax returns.
“It’s tax season, and people will call me with questions when I’m out and about,” he said. “For me, this is a great one.”
But let’s cut to the chase. Food and drink-focused apps are guiding many professionals throughout Pittsburgh’s restaurant and bar scene.
Urbanspoon, among a variety of review apps that categorize and rate dining locales, is a central reference tool for many restaurant-goers. And catching wind about happy hour times and drink specials around town is a matter of accessing on your phone the Cocktail Compass app, a comprehensive bar guide.
WTAE’s Stockey, who relied regularly on the Cocktail Compass “when I was going out a lot,” says social apps remain a linchpin in his career. “I use them as much as I can,” he said.
Apps with an educational twist are emerging on the mobile scene, too.
The Warhol Museum, for instance, has condensed the life and work of Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol into an app.
The museum within the past year has captivated press nationwide after releasing a few iPhone apps, said Josh Jeffrey, the museum’s manager of Digital Engagement. Among the releases are DIY Warhol, an “augmented reality” app that allows users to alter their photos with pop-art tones and hues, he explained. Commentary from curators and featured artists about silkscreen printing and Warhol’s life, Jeffrey said, are featured on the interactive app, too.
“It’s very authentic, and it‘s drawing a lot of attention” said Jeffrey, who’s tallied roughly 100,000 downloads since the museum unveiled the app last July. “Definitely for our industry, it’s the first of it’s kind.”