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From chasing the sun to identifying wildlife, make your summer shine with these great apps
Summer’s here* and that means thoughts start gravitating toward the great outdoors. This round-up aims to help you make the most of warm, sunny weather, by way of the apps on your iPhone.
We’ll be digging into the best apps for chasing the sun (and not getting burnt), identifying all the amazing things you see outside, hiking, biking, snapping pics and then chilling out with a quick bite and some suitably summery sounds.
* Well, in the northern hemisphere. If you’re in the south, we guess read these tips anyway and plan really well for your own summer in half a year.
Should you fancy heading outdoors far away from your existing residence, you’ll need a home away from home. Airbnb is a smart way to find somewhere to stay, whether you’re keen on an apartment near the beach or a secluded cabin hideaway. The app will also help you find things to do at your desired location.
Google Maps (free)
Getting lost isn’t much fun – but is much harder to do when you’re armed with Google Maps. The app tends to best Apple’s Maps when it comes to points of interest, and its street view is far more complete. Importantly, you can also save chunks of map for offline use – handy if where you’re heading to has spotty data connectivity.
Weather on the Way (free + IAP)
Should you be going on a lengthy road trip, Weather on the Way lets you know what the conditions are going to be like during your journey. Temperature and weather symbols are placed at regular intervals along your route, or you can dig into a timeline view with added details.
Carrot Weather (free + IAP)
For more general forecasts, Carrot Weather is a winner. Its layout editor means you can decide which aspects of weather forecasts are most important to you, and then put them front and center on the app, on your Home screen, or on your wrist by way of Apple Watch complications. Note that you need a subscription to access most of these features though.
Weather by Tomorrow.io (free)
If you don’t fancy paying for a weather app, Weather by Tommorrow.io is a good free option, with its straightforward interface and wealth of data. Additionally, you can define activities on a per-location basis and the app will accordingly let you know whether or not you should venture out for a spot of walking, running, stargazing or, erm, karaoke.
Should your main priority in the summer be not getting fried to a crisp by the sun, most weather apps provide UV readings. Still, UVLens is worth a download because its UV indicator is big enough to see from across the street, and you can personalize the app to your skin type.
Air Matters (free)
Allergens can ruin the best of summer days, transforming even the hardiest of individuals into a sneeze monster. Air Matters is more granular than weather apps. Rather than just providing a single air quality rating for a location, you can dig into the individual pollutants and allergens that most affect you.
Night Sky (free + IAP)
There’s nothing stopping you peering at the heavens during colder months. Doing so when it’s warm is a lot nicer though. Night Sky is a comprehensive free astronomy app for tracking celestial bodies, getting notified about what’s rising nearby, and letting you pretend you’re knowledgeable by mapping a labelled digital map on to the real stars.
Komoot (free + IAP)
You obviously need to use any hiking/cycling app with a modicum of caution, but Komoot is the best we’re aware of. It helps you plan hikes and rides, outlining surfaces and elevations while figuring out routes, and giving you turn-by-turn navigation when you’re on your way. You get one region for free; others are available via one-off in-app purchases.
If all you fancy is a quick walk around a new local area – and ideally one that’s a specific length – MeandR does the business. Choose your distance and pace and you’ll be given a route, which can be customized by dragging waypoints around. Live progress and history are part of the deal.
Shazam for birds? Sort of. If something feathered is making a racket nearby, use this app to record its call and it will attempt to identify the species. In our testing, it was best-in-class and pretty accurate. The unrelated PlantNET does the same for plants (albeit with photos, given that plants only rarely sing).
When your connection with nature is more local, iNaturalist comes into play. It’s effectively a social network for sharing information about nearby plants, insects, birds and animals. Find something interesting, take a snap, and share it with the world, thereby crowdsourcing research-quality data – for science!
Halide ($12/£12 per year)
There’s nothing wrong with the Camera app built into your iPhone, but if you want something more, get Halide. This app has a friendly interface, yet is packed with power, from manual focus control to a range of assistants that help you capture shots with perfect lighting and sharpness.
When you need to edit a photo in a manner beyond the odd bit of cropping, Snapseed is the best app around on iPhone. Even the most mundane shot during a summer ramble can be turned into a photographic marvel by way of the app’s extensive toolset – and yet the interface is dead easy to use.
Being outside a lot is said to work up an appetite. Tasty is an excellent way to get inspired regarding new things to cook over the summer months – and then learn how to make the dishes as well. Every step of each recipe is accompanied by a short video, and specialist diets are catered for as well.
Poolsuite FM (free)
Finally, when the day is done and it’s time to chill, you’ll want to put on some music. Instead of trawling through Apple Music, try Poolside FM’s sun-drenched sounds. And with its retro interface, the older folks in your party will be able to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ of technology – until everyone demands that they stop.