Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chicago Gangland Tour iPhone App

When we think Chicago-centric iPhone apps, we usually think of the not-so-reliable CTA bus tracker. Yet there are lots of clever smartphone applications for Chicagoans on the market, and now there's one more to add to the list. Chicago Gangland Tour is a database of Chicago-area locations tied to Al Capone and his mob cronies. It includes photos and short essays for each place, unique ways to filter entries (such as "bodies found in car"), and Google map functionality. What results is a pretty comprehensive app as jam-packed with as much information as a thick history book, but is much easier to carry and is more dynamic.

Jonathan Eig, former executive editor of Chicago magazine and author of the soon-to-be-released book Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster, wrote and produced Chicago Gangland Tour. For his book, Eig used newly released government documents, interviews with Capone's family, and Capone's own letters to describe the gangster's rise and fall. Chicago Gangland Tour incorporates a lot of this same information. It just uses different format. By highlighting more than 100 locations and 600 photos related to Chicago's gang past, Chicago Gangland Tour is more like a digital guidebook.

We didn't think it'd be fair to recommend the Chicago Ganglang Tour app if we hadn't tried it ourselves, but unfortunately iPhones are not included in the Chicagoist benefits package. So we asked one of our dads, proud iPhone owner, ex-cop and moderate Chicago history buff, to check it out. His literal first words were "Wowwww!!!" We asked him to elaborate. He was especially impressed by the app's ability to tell him if a business linked to the Chicago mob was still open for business, and provide him with its hours of operation and website. And, he liked how easy it was to navigate.

One of the things I like about the app is how easy it is to filter the information down to just the few sites you want to investigate. For example, select “Restaurants” and “By Neighborhood." Now, instead of a zillion different choices, you have narrowed the information down to only six different locations! I think this is very slick. - dad aka Ed Mikel

We asked him if he would tell anyone to buy it.

Priced at $2.99, I judge it a real bargain. The information provided would easily fill several volumes of books, let alone if you add all the pictures. And, unlike a book, you hold all of this information in your hand and can filter it to your needs in a matter of seconds.

He went on to suggest that this could be a useful too for all sorts of people, including history buffs, Chicago area residents, and tourists. So there you have it. Our dad liked Chicago Gangland Tour. We think you might like it, too.

Thanks to Betsy Mickel

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