An app to help pay the iPhone bill

By The Associated Press

MIAMI — Your freeloading iPhone can now start paying for itself. Maybe even take you someplace nice for dinner.

A two-month-old app called Gigwalk pays you to use your iPhone. Users who download the app act as on-the-ground inspectors for big companies, checking local menus, store displays or verifying street-signs. The Gigwalkers, as they’re known, snap photos of the task and send it to Gigwalk, which pays anywhere from $3 to $90 for a gig. As users prove themselves and earn “StreetCred,” they can unlock higher-paying gigs that are more complicated.

Gigwalk is the brainchild of three former Yahoo employees: Ariel Seidman, Matt Crampton and David Watanabe. Backed by venture capitalists, Gigwalk launched in eight cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami. Its clients include Microsoft, which uses the app to check information for Bing, its search engine.

The idea behind it was to make use of smartphones and social systems, Seidman said in a telephone interview from California.

“We’re solving problems for companies and trying to rethink how people find work,” he said.

Josh Tarkoff, 30, a pediatric resident at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, was one of the first to sign up. Tarkoff’s done nearly 140 gigs and earned $350 in the past month alone.

“In this day and age, everyone would take a few extra bucks,” he said.

Most gigs involve taking panoramic photos inside a shop or restaurant and a couple from across the street. Tarkoff’s favorite kind is checking if the business is still open at the address. If it’s shut down, a simple shot of the new business pays five bucks.

“That’s where the real gold is,” he said.

Chris Groves, 35, is a fledgling Gigwalker. The information technology manager from Coral Gables, Fla., completed one gig at a local Winn-Dixie and he’s ready for more.

“I consider it almost like visual history documentation,” he said.

Even reluctant participants have embraced the app. Kristy Quiros, 23, said she’d heard of Gigwalk from West Coast friends before its release. But she didn’t download the app until three weeks ago.

“The whole idea seemed cool but like a time-waste,” she said. Then she came across online forums where people discussed how much they were making. Quiros has now finished three practice gigs and is on her way to paid ones. She’s convinced that the concept is genius.

“It’s like getting Google Maps to have sex with Yelp to have sex with Twitter,” she said.

The Gigwalk app does have some limitations. It’s available only for iPhones, and some gigs specifically require the iPhone 4 camera. Batteries run out after a couple of gigs and photo uploads can eat into your data plan.

An Android app is expected later this year along with plans to expand to other metro areas, Seidman said.

Doing a gig can sometimes be awkward. Walking into a restaurant and taking photos for no apparent reason looks strange, especially in today’s world.

“I’ve been kicked out of places often enough,” Tarkoff said. “It’s easier when they’re really busy.”

Luckily, there are online forums that offer tips. At car dealerships, for example, it’s best to “be vague when describing what car you want” or if you’re tired of being stealthy, it’s OK to make yourself a business card.

The strangest place that Tarkoff’s had a gig? Victoria’s Secret. In such cases, taking someone with you helps.

“I have a supportive girlfriend who legitimized it,” he said.