When I meet friends in person these days, I often ask if they have any new apps on their phone I should know about. I've learned about useful new and new-to-me apps as well as frivolous, waste-of-time apps this way (some only work on Android, which I don't have at the moment, but are still worth hearing about).
I'll tell you about one my favorite newish apps, one I use every day, in a moment, but want to invite you to tell me about your favorites, too (the less commonplace the better, of course). Please tell us in the comments below or via Twitter using #faveapps -- I'll compile a list of the more unusual ones in a future post and give you credit.
I'll also choose a handful to feature on my CNET News-inspired weekly appearance on WCBS-TV in New York City at 6:50 a.m. on "CBS 2 This Morning" (you can also tweet your suggestions at and follow @CBS2ThisMorning).
I have several apps I like and use every day, including Flipboard, Foursquare, Tweetbot, etc. But the one I wanted to write about today is an app that does one thing and one thing only. Try to tell you if it's going to rain in the next hour where you are.
Dark Sky, anyone? It's called Dark Sky (sounds like some kind of sci-fi film or video game franchise) and works on iPhone and iPad only (CNET's Rick Broida first wrote about Dark Sky in June this year and really liked its approach).
Using geolocation, it will tell you what is happening now and what the chances are for rain in the next hour (you can also look ahead three hours). It also has a useful radar feature showing you what the clouds, if any look like. It costs $3.99 (which is about the price of a cup of coffee in NYC).
Worth the price. I know we'd all rather get everything for free, but this is a case where this simple, one-trick app is worth paying for. I've used it every day this summer to plan outdoor time with my 9-year-old twins and for my new-found interest in bicycling. It has never failed me.
An example of it was the day last week when a terrifying "superstorm" approached New York City (see photo above, taken from my balcony on the Upper West Side of Manhattan). A group of us who were standing on the balcony thought we it would rain any second, but Dark Sky predicted it would rain in 11 minutes and raindrops didn't fall on us till exactly 11 minutes after I took that photo.
Another time, I was walking in downtown Manhattan when Dark Sky said rain would fall in 20 minutes, even though the sky was quite dark (see image below). I confidently walked to my destination within 20 minutes and it didn't start raining till a few minutes after. The timing isn't always that exact, but it is pretty darn close.
Crowded field. The weather app field is quite crowded, but almost apps are all-encompassing and are clumsy when you are in a hurry for the kind of information Dark Sky gives you. I still use the built-in iPhone weather app, but not as much as I used to.
Born from a $40,000 Kickstarter project. Its back story is interesting in itself, having started as a Kickstarter project that raised $39,377 in one month last fall (the video there by the app creators is worth watching).
Have you tried Dark Sky yet? Would you try it? Or are you satisfied with all the bigger, more complex weather apps?
NOTE TO READERS: Please post your suggestions in the comments below or e-mail me or tweet me at @sree or #faveapps on Twitter. If you've been reading my posts here, you know that one of the things I am trying to do is learn what works and what doesn't on social and digital media. It's such a fast-evolving, confusing world that I believe we can all learn together. Thanks for reading.