Smartphones in summer are far from perfect. The screens are hard to see when you’re out of doors, they tend to run out of batteries at inopportune moments, and it seems you’re always in a no-cell area when you need one. Still, your smartphone can be your summer companion on the road or in your own backyard. Try these apps for the glory days of summer.
In Your Own Backyard
Start by looking at the sky. Google SkyMaps (free, Android) identifies celestial beings from your point of view. Point the phone at any location in the sky and the app will tell you what you’re seeing. Planets, stars, constellations – are all unveiled. Apple users who want a prettier map can download SkyApp from Celestron (iPhone/iPad).
A surprisingly handy app, Flashlight (iPhone/iPad) transforms your phone screen to a bright white light. For reading menus, finding a keyhole or just getting somewhere in the dark, it’s a handy addition.
Gardening fanatics have a huge number of app choices. Those who prefer an encyclopedic approach will enjoy Botany Buddy ($9.99, iPhone/iPad). It provides an almost overwhelming description of every plant and shrub in existence – all searchable by name, location and description. Cooks should look at iPlant ($1.99, iPhone/iPad), a culinary guide. If your garden is infested, you need Garden Insects (iPhone/iPad), the 99-cent guide to garden insects.
For getting in shape, use your smartphone as a pedometer with Pedometer Pro GPS+ ($2.99, iPhone/iPad). Since it knows your location through its GPS, it can calculate how far and fast you’ve walked and run, through what kinds of terrain. Set your personal goals and get started.
Weather buffs and outdoor party planners might download WeatherUnderground’s free app (Android/iPhone/iPad), where local folks like you contribute weather information in real time. Crowd-sourced weather at its finest!
Looking for a local event to pass the time? From movies, to concerts, to fairs and art, Eventful (free, iPhone) lets you follow upcoming concerts, performances and other live events through the site. Eventful goes a step further by giving fans a place to demand an event.
On the Road
AccuTerra Unlimited (iPhone) is the hardcore map and GPS tracker for hiking, running, biking, and skiing. We’re talking five million square miles of terrain and trail maps. The maps are beautiful and have been optimized for the iPhone. You’ll want to download just the maps that you need to use (the app can get quite large). This all-access pass comes at the hefty price tag of $29.95.
When you’re off the trail, Where You Go (free, Android) is an app with 500 preset categories that can locate anything from drug stores to restaurants to points of interest.
Campers and RV enthusiasts should head to Camping Road Trip ($2.99). Available on iPhone and Android, it provides a complete list of 15,000 RV parks and campgrounds and lets you share your notes and ratings with others.
On the Interstate? Download iexit ($.99, iPhone) and find out what restaurants and hotels are just off the next exit – without ever exiting.
An app I find especially handy for summer travels is Park n Find ($.99, iPhone). Park your car, take its photo, and the GPS coordinates are captured and reported back to you. You’ll never be the last car out of the lot again because you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked.
TripIt (free, Android, iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, Windows) watches as you book your flights, hotel , rental car information and turns it into your personal itinerary. Trip Advisor (free, Android phone/tablet, iPhone/iPad, Windows) shares the often very vocal opinion of travelers everywhere. Read before you book.