More spring-forward apps (Part 1)

iPhone /

Unless you're among the lucky few who inhabit the west coast, chances are you'll relate when I say that this was one brutal winter. There were days when walking outside was plainly impossible, and people found themselves cooped up inside all day, stewing in claustrophobia and taking solace only in their iPhone. But those days are behind us. The sun is out, April showers are falling on cue, and for the first time in a long time, the future looks bright – literally. Spring is a beautiful time. The temperature is optimal for long days at the beach without oppressive heat, and the nights are cool and calm. To celebrate the onset of this lovely season, we've assembled some helpful smartphone apps that can only help enhance your spring awakening.

1. Staring up at the stars. Before people had iPhone screens – and the myriad compass apps that are out there – they looked to the stars for directions. Well now thanks to the app SkyView Free, we can look back at the sky again – on our iPhone, that is. The app enables a wonderful spring pastime – looking up at the stars to identify constellations – to become even more illuminating. Simply by pointing your iPhone at the night sky, the app's recognition technology will be able to highlight constellations and stars. Let's face it – despite that basic astronomy class in college, you may be having some difficulty locating the Big Dipper. But SkyView ensures that you'll never search the stars fruitlessly again. “As an astronomy lover, this is definitely my favorite app,” one user enthused. “It is so amazing seeing our entire solar system anywhere we go by just tapping a screen!” Just don't get too focused on the sky above that you forget your surroundings. That's a one-way ticket to dropping your phone – and then the one thing in the solar system you'll need to find will be a cell phone repair shop

2. Make hiking a part of your workout. One of the best things about spring is that it offers the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Instead of laboring away on a treadmill waiting for the relief of the 30 minute mark, spring offers the entire world as your playground. Walk along the lakeshore, play a game of frisbee, find the nearest swingset – this season is all about getting exercise on your terms. Hiking represents an indisputably great merging of fun and fitness, as long as it's done correctly (i.e. don't hike from one Starbucks to the other). Fortunately, there's an app that makes sure your hikes are both fitness- and fun-intensive. The app – called MotionX GPS and available for $1.99 – helps you devise hiking routes and tracks your progress once you're on them. By actively monitoring and then storing your miles per hour and distance traveled, the app makes it easy to set new personal records. For someone with even a modicum of the competitive spirit, MotionX is sure to become addictive. But this app isn't just about getting some good cardio – it's also about having a good time doing it. Therefore, MotionX comes equipped with myriad features to view, create and store maps that are viewable in aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-follow formats. For the seasoned hiker, there's the ability to create waypoints that you can return to on future hikes (a restaurant, for example, or perhaps a fresh water source). And like most good apps, this one has a social media component, with the option to share your paths with friends through platforms like Facebook. As one user reviewing the app boldly proclaimed, “The days of casual exercise to stay fit are over.” Goodbye treadmill, hello world.

Believe it or not, the spring apps don't end here. Looking at the stars and going on hikes are great ways to welcome the new season, but there are still more app-centered benefits of welcoming weather you can actually walk around in. After you've gone on a nice hike, check back in to Part 2 to learn about more spring-forward apps.

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