Cool Apps for Summer

The solstice is past and summer is here! So what can our smartphones and tablets do for us while we’re outside in the sun? Besides the obvious things – like checking the weather forecast (here and far away), and capturing pics and videos of all the fun times – here are a few nifty tricks your phone can do while you’re al fresco.


For the barbecue-ist there are a few nice apps to help with everything from tips to timing. A couple getting good reviews from users are: “GrillTime” and “Grill-It!” GrillTime has tips and a few recipes, but its best trick is keeping multiple timers for, when to turn, when to baste, and when to pull it off the fire. Grill-It! is chock full of recipes, ideas, and cooking times for barbecue entrees of all sorts: meat, potatoes, and all things in between. Both apps are available for Android and IOS devices, and you can search the app store to find plenty more.

Sun Exposure

Like time in the fire – but for you! The “Lancaster SunTimer” and “Wolfram Alpha Sun Exposure” apps will help you keep track of your time in the sun. Both of these apps will help you figure how much time you can safely stay in the sun, and will time you between applications of sunscreen. Both of these apps are available for Android and IOS, as are several others with similar features. Check the user reviews and features to find one you like to help get a tan but avoid the burn.

Plant Identification

While you’re outside, on a hike, or maybe just around the yard, you may come across a plant that you want to identify. (Poison Ivy comes in so many forms!) A terrific app for that is “PlantSnap.” It is as easy as taking a picture, and almost as fast. It’s really kind of amazing. You just open the app, then snap a picture of a flower or leaf with your phone’s camera. Within seconds the app comes back with a match and descriptive information. Sometimes it will show you some possible alternatives, but for me it’s found the correct match every time.

Travel Guides and Tourist Info

This one might be obvious because Google and Apple are always so eager to feed you information about “things near you[r phone]” but there is a plethora of travel guides and tourist info apps. Some are specific to a location – such as, “things to see while in our town” – but there are others that will help you find and plan a route to all sorts of interesting sights and historic or cultural locations. A trip planner app that gets great reviews on both IOS and Android is “Roadtrippers.” It’s a compendium of zillions of roadside attractions, scoured from all over the Internet, connected to a map that lets you plan a route, find the stops you like, and then share the route with others. To find more like this, search your app store for terms like: “travel,” or “road trip,” or “walking tour.”

Car Games

And if you’re going to take a long drive, you’re going to need some travel games. A couple of winners with great reviews are: “Road Trip Scavenger Hunt” and “Heads Up.” (Heads Up is the one that Ellen DeGeneres plays on her TV show.) Again, both IOS and Android versions are available, as are many, many, more. Search “car games” or “travel games” in your app store.

Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or