If you're planning a big night out, then the first thing you should reach for is your iPhone. In addition to its basic communication functions, by loading it up with the right apps, it can help you with all aspects of entertainment planning.
It will not only help you round up your mates, but also assist in the complicated matter of finding a mutually agreeable time and date for everyone. It can also help find you somewhere to go and something to do, whether you're looking for a huge night out, something a little more sedate or are just happy to go with the flow and see where you end up.
But its talents don't stop there. When you're out and about, your iPhone can help both to keep you safe and keep you entertained. There are apps to help friends and loved ones know where you are at all times. If the conversation ever reaches a lull - or you need to settle an argument - help is just a couple of taps away. There are even apps that will stop you misbehaving when you've had one too many, and to make sure you're sober enough to text that special someone.
Thanks to the combination of always-on internet connection and GPS location, the iPhone even opens up a whole new world of apps that weren't previously possible. These let you check in to specific locations and earn rewards for loyalty, but they also let you see what your friends are up to and where they recommend going - or even in some cases, find out that they're actually at the very same place as you.
Once you're ready to head home, your iPhone's work is still not done. There are apps to help guide you safely home and make your journey as pain-free as possible. The only thing it can't help you with is your hangover!
Arranging to meet up
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The first thing you need for the ultimate night out is some people - ideally ones that you know and like. You could, of course, jump straight into the phone app and start calling, but that all feels a little bit 1990s. It's also not exactly time efficient - you'll have to spend a good five minutes per call on idle chat before you can jump to the actual purpose you're ringing for.
Head over to Messages instead and you can tap out your enquiry and dispense with the pleasantries. Even better, you can send group messages so you can organise a whole bunch of people in one go - and if they're all using iMessage, the texts will be free.
Of course, if you're still friends with people that don't have iPhones, iMessage won't work and it will fall back to text message. Instead, try the cross-handset WhatsApp Messenger (opens in new tab) (69p). This app lets you send free messages between iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and even Nokia handsets. What's more, as well as sharing plain old text, you can send your location, which makes meeting up with people that are lost much easier.
If you're only dealing with a couple of people, then keeping track of who's coming is pretty simple - but add more than five and it soon becomes unmanageable. Facebook's Event function makes it easy to keep tabs on who's coming and who's a loser.
While there isn't a way to create a new event in the Facebook (opens in new tab) (Free) app, if you jump over to Safari you can set one up there. Once that's done, you can go retreat back to the safety of app land and see how popular (or not) your event is as the RSVPs flood in. Of course, this is only an option if all the people you're planning on inviting are on Facebook.
Unfortunately, everyone has a friend that's morally opposed to Facebook and refuses to open an account, and occasionally you have to arrange to meet them. For times like these, calendar requests are the solution. Unless your iPhone calendar account is hosted on Microsoft Exchange, however, you won't be able to send them.
But there is, of course, a third-party app solution, this time in the form of iNvite (opens in new tab) (Free). Simply fill in the details of the event as you would a normal calendar entry, and then add the email address of each recipient. They can then reply with a yay or nay, and it's easy to see who hasn't responded yet.
In addition to deciding who you want to meet up with, you need to settle on when. Managing just your own diary can be problematic enough, but once you add in other people's erratic schedules, nailing it down to a time and date can be nigh-on impossible.
This is where Doodle for iPhone (opens in new tab) (£1.99) steps in. It's a free web service designed to make finding a convenient time to meet up really simple. The app is a little on the pricey side, but it's very slick and easy to use. Give the event a name, fill in the details and choose a range of dates and times. Participants can then vote on their preferred one and you can schedule the event safe in the knowledge you took on everyone's input before ignoring it and picking the best time for you.
Finding somewhere to go
You've worked out who's coming and what time everyone needs to get there - the next step is to pick what to do. Whatever it is you fancy, the iPhone has an app (or three) to help you narrow down your choices, whether it's catching a movie, having a meal, seeing the newest bands or even finding new things you've never thought of doing before.
If you're looking for a bite to eat, then the two big players are OpenTable (opens in new tab) (Free) and toptable (opens in new tab) (Free). They both let you find restaurants nearby and book a table straight from the app. If you think the results look startlingly similar, then it's because UK-based toptable was purchased by US-owned OpenTable a couple of years ago.
However, there's one very good reason to choose toptable, apart from good ol' British pride - the offers. If you're on the lookout for a deal, hit the Offers tab and you can browse discounts available and put the saving towards a second bottle of Prosecco.
However, if your idea of a three-course meal is a popcorn starter, hotdogs, and pick and mix for pudding washed down with a cup of ice and a dash of Coke, then Flixster (opens in new tab) (Free) is your ideal date for the evening. It will give you the low down on the latest Hollywood blockbusters and where they're showing nearby, so you can whittle down the choices.
And don't forget if you're an Orange customer, and there's a W in the day of the week, to download the Orange Wednesdays (opens in new tab) (Free) app. This will get you two-for-one cinema tickets, so you can look like you're splashing out and treating someone when it really isn't costing you any extra.
If live music is more your sort of thing, then SongKick (opens in new tab) (Free) is the go-to app. It'll keep you up to date on when your favourite artists are touring, and the really clever bit is that it scans your music library so it knows what you like (even your guilty secrets). It'll show you an upcoming lists of gigs nearby and you can then add them to your list and even book tickets.
If you'd rather throw some shapes on the dance floor instead, while an overpaid celebrity hits the play button on a playlist on their iPhone, the confusingly concatenated Clubbillboard (opens in new tab) (Free) is a club rep in app form. You can browse the featured club nights or drill down by date or location to find the perfect party.
All of the options so far are fine if you know exactly what you want to do, but if you're looking for more of a serendipitous experience, then Layar (opens in new tab) (Free) will show you what's around you right now, with an added drop of Minority Report. By using the compass and GPS in your iPhone, Layar will overlay information on the camera view, giving you your own personal heads-up display. It's a bit like being the Terminator, except without the total disregard for the sanctity of human life.
You can choose different layers (do you see what they did there?) of information, covering everything from restaurants to Tube stations.