Developer: Wunderstadt
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPod Touch 4g
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Updated 10-7-2011: Parkbud has just updated to 2.0 and is currently free in the App Store for a limited time. This update brought with it a bucketload of new features including “Parkbud Pay”, the ability to pay for parking via the phone anywhere in the world that mobile parking payments are accepted. This includes a function to calculate the cost of tickets based on time of day purchased and the option to renew tickets while out and about away from your parked car. Also added is a $0.99 in-app purchase option called “Parkbud Pro” which provides new features including a point of interest locator, compass and rotating map, a parking level widget, and additional “rotating wheels and sliding doors” UI enhancements.

One of my favorite axioms is “the human brain is meant for processing, not storage.” Remembering trivial facts, like where you parked your car or how much time is left before get a ticket is one of those things that’s a waste of the brain’s potential. It’s a good use for a mobile device, however, and ParkBud combines several useful parking-related functions into one truly gorgeous application that takes yet another fact off your mind.

The main screen bears a resemblance to a sexy futuristic parking meter. The large number pad makes it easy to enter meter time with fat fingers. Press the “enter” button, and gears and dials spin and whirr like a mechanical timepiece. It produces an effect so delightfully impressive that I cleared and re-entered the time again just so I could see it happen over and over.

One of two minor complaints with this app: it took me a few tries to dial the alarm time to exactly the right number of minutes. I would recommend making the tickmarks further apart on the dial to help with this. The alarm sound is the same melody that Apple uses to announce completion of a DVD burn job.

ParkBud thoughtfully integrates location awareness and can mark one parking location on the map; subsequent pins delete the one before, after a warning message. One tap brings up parking-related business and ramps, or in my case, the office where I go to pay my parking tickets. Walking directions, modeled after Google Map’s turn-by-turn direction feature, plot a path from the user’s current location back to the dropped pin.

If for some reason the map and location awareness feature fails, or if a point of interest or a to-do item appears along the way, ParkBud gives two more additional options: users can store a single photo (either take it in-app or pull an existing image from the Camera Roll), or take advantage the virtual 5-page notebook. Second minor complaint: I had a hard time getting the “cover” of this notebook to open and the pages to flip, as it seemed to require a very specific touch gesture which didn’t match the illustration on the cover.

Besides being highly functional, ParkBud’s user interface is simply a joy to use. Beyond simple eye candy, there are numerous design flourishes that enhance the overall user experience without going over the top. There’s not much “design for design’s sake” here; just about every shadow, gradient and sound is carefully engineered to give the feeling that you are working with a true best-in-class piece of programming.

For ParkBud’s meager price tag, users get a pleasant, hassle-free use experience, and the fact that it will probably pay for itself after the first parking ticket is avoided is almost an afterthought.

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