5 Apps To Help You Make It Through the Summer

Prairie Gleanings

These five smartphone apps will help your family navigate a busy summer.

Published on: June 14, 2013

It's summer. Between planting, scouting and spraying, you probably have oodles of little league games, a week or two of summer vacation and perhaps a few dance recital weekends.

Are you effectively using your smartphone to manage your busy schedule? If you're anything like my family, I'd say no.

Here's a list of apps I can't do without. Also, I've included some tips on how to get the most out of them.

CalenMob: Back when I used an Android phone, I started relying heavily on Google Calendar. CalenMob is just one of the many ways to access this free service.

First off, you’ll need a Google account. From www.google.com, click on “Calendar” along the top menu bar. From here you can manage your appointments.

Here are my top five (actually six) apps on the iPhone 5. These are also available for Android.
Here are my top five (actually six) apps on the iPhone 5. These are also available for Android.

Here’s the great part: there are a host of apps for smartphones and tablets that allow you to access this calendar. So, you don’t have to be in front of your computer to check it.

Here’s the best part: you can set this up so everyone in the family can access Google Calendar. Aunt Jenny wants to know if you can make it to a barbecue the last weekend in July, but dad’s busy in a meeting. No problem, pull up your Google Calendar and see for yourself. (Of course this gets rid of the old, “I’ll need to check with my wife” excuse.)

While I use Google Calendar, there are numerous calendar apps that allow you to share data between family members. If you use Microsoft Exchange, your smartphone is probably already auto-syncing those dates. You just need to allow access to the calendar on other devices.

Big picture, just realize with a smartphone, you now have the power to manage a calendar across an entire family or group of employees. Of course, the weak link is still getting people to consistently input events/meetings.

Evernote: Last week I was cutting the grass when a story idea popped in my head. I pulled out my iPhone and promptly entered it on Evernote.

Again, once you set up an account, you can log in and view your notes from the desktop, tablet or phone. It’s also possible to allow family members to share an account, but look out if you’ve stored something like “Birthday Gift Ideas” on there.

Instead, you may be better off using the excellent built in sharing features. You had a running grocery list, but your wife “swung by Walmart” on the way home? No problem, open the list, click the share icon and text it to her.

Google Maps: Ah, yes, the app that Apple tried to replace, but succeeded only in making tech bloggers’ “Epic Fail” lists.

Regardless of your brand of smartphone, this app is still the gold standard for navigation. It just works.

As many have realized, a smartphone with a navigation app beats the pants off an old-school GPS device. A GPS navigation device’s only advantage is it’s not subject to cell network dead zones.

But, if you’re going on vacation, nearly all U.S. interstates and most major highways are blanketed in cell coverage.

Overall, I find Google Maps is terrific at navigating me to a specific address. It’s also great at searching for certain types of locations, like restaurants, a pharmacy, gas station, etc.

Plus, it’s integrated with Google’s powerful search function, so location results will typically include store hours, a phone number and other helpful information.

YouTube/Netflix: If you have young children, you realize these apps are worth their weight in gold. Their success rate of entertaining children and rendering them silent is unparalleled.

Netflix requires a subscription. Sharing one subscription amongst a family is perfectly fine. I believe the only caveat is you cannot stream Netflix content on more than two devices simultaneously.

YouTube is free. Content can be more hit or miss, so don’t expect to have high-quality, full-length cartoon episodes. Still, you’d be amazed at how entertaining 10 minutes of trains driving by is to a 3-year-old boy.

Endomondo: If you like running outside, this is a must-have. This free app tracks your progress via your phone’s GPS.

As you run, it will give you updates at each mile. Once you end the workout, you can view various statistics such as max speed, average speed, total altitude change and distance.

It also generates a map of the route, which is overlaid on a street map. If you want, you can connect it to social media sites, like Facebook, and share your progress/compete with friends.