5 great apps that do more than the ones you're using now

When posting on Facebook, getting the weather or checking email, you’re probably using an app. According to a new report from comScore, apps consume 50 percent of the time an average person spends on his or her smartphone. With that in mind, here are five great apps that do the same old thing, just so much better.

Weather, where you are standing

There is certainly no shortage of weather apps. Most of them provide overall information about the day’s high and low temperatures and the chance of precipitation. Dark Sky is different. Sure, it provides detailed weather information, but where it shines is when it predicts rain or snow, down to the minute, at your exact location using your phone’s GPS. And it works exceptionally well.

While in Maui recently, I was packing for a hike when Dark Sky sent a notification to my phone that it would rain in 16 minutes. Sure enough, in 16 minutes, dark clouds covered the sun and a light drizzle started.

The app has a slew of built-in notification options for rain, snow and government severe weather alerts. You can set your own notifications, such as if it’ll be too cold at night for the plants in your garden. Dark Sky also offers weather maps and simulations.

While the iOS app costs $3.99, Android Dark Sky is a free download. To get the local minute-by-minute forecasts, fancy notifications and widgets, you have to subscribe to Android Dark Sky Premium for $2.99 a year. Click here to download and learn more about Dark Sky.

Who’s there?

Video calling is one of those things in life that once you “get” it, you use it all the time. If you have an iPhone or iPad, Facetime is the de facto choice. If you’re on Android, your options include Skype, fring, ooVoo, Tango and more.

Now add Google Duo to your video calling apps. It works on both iOS and Android phones, making it a top choice for families using different platforms. Setup is easy. The app gets your phone number from your SIM card. There are no accounts to create or any contacts to enter. Behind the scenes, Duo adjusts the video quality automatically, based on your connection. If you need to switch from cellular to Wi-Fi, your call is not dropped.

Duo also has a fun feature called “Knock Knock.” When you receive a call, you see the person calling you live on your phone’s screen before you answer. Google Duo is free on both iOS and Android.

Find the lowest prices on medications

You shop around to get the best prices for gas, cars and electronics, but when it comes to prescriptions, you likely get them filled at the most convenient place. GoodRX will expand your points of purchase. Enter your city and the name of the medication you need, and you instantly see the cost at nearby stores.

You can check prices for one medication or find the pharmacy where you’ll save the most money on all your prescriptions. The app offers handy refill reminder alerts and coupons on some medications. The next time you’re going to the pharmacy, price-shop before you leave home. GoodRX is free for both iOS and Android.

Help for the hearing-impaired

Over the past month, I have taken a few calls on my national radio show from people who have family members who are hearing-impaired or deaf and want to know how tech can improve communications with their loved ones. While we talk about those options, I like to point out how a phones and tablets can assist in other ways.

TapTap is an app that helps the deaf and hearing-impaired react to their audio environment. When the app detects a phone ringing or a shout, an alarm, a honk, crash, knock or other sound, the phone flashes and vibrates. You can adjust the sensitivity for noisy environments. TapTap is $2.99 for iOS. A similar app for Android is called SoundAlert.

Turn photos into masterpieces

So many people are taking photos and applying filters that we’ve seen a trend in naming babies Ludwig, Kelvin, and Willow after Instagram filters. Most filters do essentially the same thing. The photo doesn’t change, except for the color, focus or contrast.

But the Prisma app takes filters to the extreme, transforming your photos into works of art using the styles of famous artists: Van Gogh, Picasso, Levitan and Munch as well as famous objects. Select a photo in your library and start applying the filters. Prisma is not something you’ll use with every photo, but it is a lot of fun to watch an image change in seconds.  

The Prisma app has been downloaded more than 50 million times. Perhaps a new surge in babies named Tokyo, Dallas and Wave is on the horizon. Prisma is free for both iOS and Android.

Bonus: An app for foodies

Commentator Andy Rooney once said, “I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture, I'd buy a painting.” Obviously, he said this long before the endless flow of breakfast, lunch and dinner pictures took over social media.

My food pictures actually did the dishes injustice until I found the Foodie app, which offers over 25 different filters such as meat, sushi, and cake for taking fantastic food photos.

Be sure to use the app’s “best angle” feature. It lets you know when your phone’s camera is positioned to take those gorgeous flat photos like you see in gourmet magazines and food blogs. There are also auto blurring effects, brightness adjustment and lighting features. Foodie is free for both iOS and Android.

Finding the best tech solution is one of things I discuss on my national radio show. From buying advice to digital life issues, be sure to listen or download the podcasts.  Click here to find your local radio station. If you are looking for topics about everything digital that you can listen to on your phone, tablet or computer, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2016, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show as she takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle. Visit Komando.com for free podcasts, videos, product reviews, shows, tips, and advice.