Every year, the sun returns from its winter hideout to zap you with magic rays that shrink clothes, shutter schools, and force BBQ in your face. Summer is, in a word, awesome. What's even more awesome is how social media makes connecting with friends and partaking in all summer has to offer easier than ever. Here are some of the best apps for Android and iOS to help you do this season right.
Weather Apps: The Democratization of MeteorologyOne of the first things you'll need in order to get the most out of summer is the power of meteorological foresight. You don't want to plan that golf outing or canoe trip if thunderstorms are in the area. And with mobile devices, we have access to vast array of updated weather info wherever and whenever.
There are dozens of weather apps out there. Your smartphone probably even came preinstalled with one. And to be honest, they will all deliver the basics. However, one app has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention, but not necessarily for its more precise forecasts.
BeWeather (free, for Android) is, admittedly, a prime case of style over substance. The free version of the app offers hourly and weekly forecasts for multiple locations, extreme weather alerts, and local radar animations. Nothing special. However, this app (originally designed for Blackberry) does come loaded with beautiful HD animations in the background. Checking the weather becomes an oddly mesmerizing experience. Purely from an aesthetic point of view, this meteorological app is the way to go.
The Weather Channel app (free, for iPhone and iPad, and Android) is also a great pick for forecasting. It boasts new features like saved favorite locations, hour-by-hour details, and easy-share capabilities.
Music Festival Apps: The Party's in Your PocketFollowing the recorded music implosion of the past decade, musicians have begun to depend on live performances to make a living. The past few years have seen an explosion of multi-day, site-specific music and art festivals as well as continued success for 1990s-style traveling tours.
These events attract a largely youthful, tech-savvy demographic who have developed their own apps. Festival apps can vary widely in their offerings, from line-up info to streaming media content. They are usually free, and therefore probably worth downloading if you plan on attending a big gathering. However, if any app functions require an internet connection, there's a good chance they won't work during the actual festival. When thousands of people gather in one location, systems can get jammed and you will have spotty — if existent — coverage.
If you plan to partake in any festivals this summer, check on the festival's website, iTunes, or Google Play to see if an official app is available. There are far too many to give a complete list here, but some notable offerings from upcoming established fests are Bonnaroo, (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android); Warped Tour (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android); and Mountain Jam Festival (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android).
Foodie Apps: Find Out Where Your Food Is ParkedLunch breaks aren't often long enough to enjoy a nice sit-down restaurant meal. But when the weather is nice, who wants to brown-bag it in the break room? One of the big trends in lunch over the past few years has been mobile food trucks. The truck trend originally took hold in cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Austin, and New York, but has started to spread around the nation. The menus are a purposefully limited, but for what they do offer, they do very, very well. Whether you are yearning for some Korean-Mexican fusion or are in desperate need of Belgian desserts on the fly, you'll want to find that food truck!
As part of their business plan, these mobile kitchens have embraced social media Truxmap (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android) is a popular way to keep track of all the food trucks in your vicinity, as it offers real-time displays of all the cuisines parked in your neighborhood.
Another grub-on-the-go option is Food Truck Finder (free, for Android) which supports dozens of mobile kitchens in 34 cities around the globe. The app acts as a Twitter aggregator, allowing users to look up truck options in their city with the latest tweeted locations.
Travel Apps: Making Travel Less ForeignSummer is also the perfect season for travel. But, in order to go to some enchanted far away land, you'll have to stop in at least one airport first. GateGuru (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android) can make life for those who have an #airportlife a little more comfortable. This app provides a run-down of the amenities in most major airports and offers a search function for finding restaurants and stores in your terminal based on how much time you have before boarding.
As someone whose work has them on planes on a regular basis, one of the best apps to have is Flight Aware (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android). While minimalist in design, this app will provide you with updated information for your flight(s), even when the airline staff is less than forthcoming. This is a huge advantage when trying to decide when to actually arrive at the airport, and is also useful when in a foreign country where there is a language barrier. Speaking of which...
While it still has a few bugs, the Google Translate app (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android) is a good in-a-pinch translating tool. You can type or speak a phrase in a number of different languages and then translate it to your desired tongue. It's also helpful in that it keeps a history of this phrases in case you need to revisit them. Bonus: You can translate directly from received text messages.
Surfing Apps: Gnarly, DudeDo you like to surf?!? I don't, but I know people who do! And they rave about Surf Watch ($9.99, for iPhone/iPad), a quality, easy-to-use app that tracks surf conditions. While this app does carry a $10 price tag, it's a worthy investment if you spend the majority of your free time skateboarding on the ocean. If you'd rather spend $10 on wax, Surfline Surf Report (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android) will give you the basic surf conditions for an area, and also offers live streaming coverage of certain beaches.
Tanning Apps: Snookie's Favorite AppsThe summer sun is upon us, and in order to manage that tan as safely as possible, you should take advantage of a number of apps that will let you know the ultra violet index in your area. The Environmental Protection Agency's Sunwise UV Index app (free, for iPhone/iPad and Android) provides the UV forecast in your area alongside specific precautions to take (i.e. wear shades and slather on sun block of at least SPF 15).
The aptly named UV Index app ($1.99, for iPhone/iPad) not only displays the UV index forecast for your specific location, but recommends what kind of SPF you should have based on your skin type, plus it offers reminders on when to reapply.
Gasoline-Saving Apps: Cheaper Gas, More AdventuresUnfortunately, gas prices may remain volatile for some time. It's smart to conserve fuel when you can, but during road trip season, you know your wallet will feel the pinch. But there's an app that can help you find the cheapest gas around: GasBuddy (free, for iPhone/iPad, and Android). The app works as a sort of bathroom wall for gas prices, if you will. You can report what prices are as you check-in at a particular gas station, but also search for the cheapest gas prices by area. (Unfortunately this app is only available in the US and Canada).
And as you plan those road trips (or if you're just someone who puts a lot of miles on the road), a good app to have on-hand is the no-frills Gas Mileage Calculator (free, for Android). This handy app allows users to track the mileage on their vehicle and calculate how much each mile essentially costs. What's more, it works for both European and US units. Likewise, the Gas Cubby app (free, for iPhone/iPad) offers mileage calculations, and will let you know when it's time to change your oil or do other maintenance based on how many miles you've driven.
As mobile devices become more and more prevalent, they become more ingrained with our everyday lives. They keep us connected and give us unprecedented access to tailored information from around the world. They're super helpful for traveling and saving money, but remember to put your smartphones away for a little while this summer and enjoy the weather and the company of friends.