There are apps that help you find restaurants or movies to your liking and even apps that help you find apps. But a really worthy use of an iDevice is Art Alert, an app that helps you find art museums anywhere you may be traveling.
While Art Authority allows you to view an art database, Art Alert helps you find over 500 locations all over the world where you can view art in person. But the app also invokes the company's database of art -- which has 60,000 items, to give you a taste of what you might see at a particular location.
Art Alert 1.0 is a universal app for both iPhone, iPod Touch (3G or later) and iPad. Its introductory price is US$2.99.
You'll start with a world map and search, typically by city or museum name. (No ZIP codes.)
You can zoom in and tap a pushpin. Or search.
But if you see a red pushpin on the map that's of interest, you can tap it directly. If you enter, say, "New York" into the search field, you'll get a list of all the museums in that city.
When there are many museums, exploration is easy.
Tapping the information arrow brings up full details on that museum, and it looks like the screen shot below. (I switched to Denver to given them a shoutout.)
Most links above, including phone number, are live.
If you need directions from your current location to the museum, that's an easy option that also includes a satellite view to make the location easier to find.
Art Alert provides you with everything you need. The location, a map, directions, a link to the website where you can get the phone number (hot button on an iPhone) and hours of operation -- and even some samplings of what you can see at that museum or jump over to the sister app, Art Authority, too browse the entire AA database for that location.
The app does point out, however, that works from a particular location are often out on loan or not on display. So if you're interested in something specific, it's best to check with the museum directly.
From the Denver Art Museum by Charles M. Russell, "In the Enemy's Country" (Slightly cropped on bottom)
There is a YouTube video that walks through the basic operation of the app.
Art Alert makes use of several key information sources to help the user: Maps*, the museum's website, a Wikipedia entry and, optionally, the sister app Art Authority. The problem is related to the way iOS is designed: once you depart the Art Alert app, there's no easy way to get back to where you were. You must quit the map, or Safari, and relaunch Art Alert. But there is a solution.
I asked the developer why they didn't include an embedded browser like most Twitter clients do. That way, after the embedded browser quits, one is back in Art Alert again.
The response was: "You are 100 percent dead on in terms of the way the app could be improved, although you are the first reviewer to point out this issue. The change you propose is already near the top of our list of potential improvements. I'm copying our engineer on this email, and I expect we'll be moving it to the top of the list shortly. "
This app is perfect for when you're visiting another city, perhaps on business travel. Rather than spinning your gears, trying to find an art museum of interest, you can home in right away on the kinds of things you might see at a given location and then get a handy map and directions.
It's a solid piece of work, but it'll be a lot friendlier when there's an embedded web browser to make navigation simpler.
* Art Alert uses the iOS maps API. That means Google Maps on iOS 5 and Apple Maps on iOS 6.