Mobile apps that can make our lives easier
Kim Komando: From banking to traffic, what you should have on your phone
Hundreds of mobile apps are designed to keep you informed about your life and environment – from the length of your commute to the state of your finances. Here are a few easy suggestions to make your life a little easier:
❚ Latest weather warnings:
Weather apps can help you dress, schedule and prepare for serious problems.
Dark Sky is the most widely respected app, a slick and simple-to-use interface that pulls data from precise locations. You can set up predetermined alerts for whatever weather condition you want to be notified of.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration app Hi-Def Radar isn’t as flashy as Dark Sky, but NOAA satellites offer clear maps and images. The NOAA app can also send alerts any time lightning strikes within
10 miles or when severe storm events break out in your vicinity. RadarScope and Accuweather have similar features.
❚ Banking activities: Banking notifications are helpful for two reasons. When payments go through, you can ensure your accounts are current. Alerts may also nip criminal activity in the bud; if your card is skimmed or stolen, large purchases will register right away, and you can notify your bank.
Depending on which bank you use, you’ll need to look in the app settings to set up special alerts. Alternatively, apps like Mint can be set up to connect to your bank as a third-party app.
These apps will need access to some private data, but they are useful tools for keeping up with your transactions.
❚ Traffic jams and accidents: You may live 15 minutes from your appointment, but a single accident could detain you for an hour. Knowing ahead of time could help you reroute your trip.
That’s where apps like Waze, Google Maps and INRIX can help you plan your drive. Yes, each app has built-in GPS directions and features, but they’re also capable of sending alerts about traffic jams, accidents, hazardous conditions and severe weather affecting routes. Most of them, particularly Waze, offer a wide selection of alert preferences. Waze lets you set reminders for when you need to leave, having already chosen a route.
❚ Know when a person arrives or
leaves an area: Not everyone understands Find My Friends, the tracking app included with every iPhone. For many people, this app can be a lifesaver: Find My Friends can be configured with alerts that let you know when a friend has arrived or left a destination. It can help you keep track of loved ones who are sick or elderly, minors traveling alone, or anyone with special needs or a habit of wandering off.
You can activate the feature by adding friends via the Home screen of the app, then adding a contact’s name. Once done, you will need to share your location with the friends you want to track, allowing friend requests from those who want the same of you. You can choose to set up notifications to alert your friends when you arrive or leave a location, or vice versa.
Android users have a few options, such as the aesthetically pleasing Familo, which requires just a phone number to set up. There’s also Glympse, or the Android version of Find My Friends, which is similar (but not identical) to the iPhone app.
❚ Irregular or high heart rate: The new Apple Watch Series 4 comes with a formidable app for tracking your heart rate. But you don’t have to be an Apple user to benefit from alerts like this. Devices like the Fitbit, which can work with all smartphones, can quickly alert you when your resting heart rate is too high, though many of the more sophisticated tracking information will likely have to be left to the new Apple Watch devices.
Still, essential alerts can be sent from your device to your phone as soon as a problem is detected.