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5 phone alerts you’ll wish you knew about before now

On Oct. 3, most Americans will receive a wireless alert straight from President Trump. There’s no way to opt out of this mandatory message, as it will be coming to your phone no matter what kind of settings you have in place.

Previously, this emergency alert was scheduled to take place on Thursday, Sept. 20. That’s all been pushed back for now, but these types of alerts are nothing new for mobile phone users.

Your phone is more than just a mecca for special messages straight from the White House, however. With the wide selection of mobile apps out there created to help keep you in the know about inclement weather, the ways you’re spending money, traffic, and more, you can set up special alerts to notify you of plenty of different things.

Here are a few easy suggestions you can rely on to make your life a little easier.

Weather apps

Weather apps’ main purpose are to keep you up to date on what’s going on around you outdoors. Many of us simply don’t have time to track the weather on TV or even online. Thus, apps that send alerts can be extremely helpful when severe situations arise. There’s a wide selection of them, but a few particularly useful picks should be on your radar.

Dark Sky, for instance, is a slick and simple-to-use weather app that can pull data from right where you are, ensuring you receive alerts for severe weather watches and warnings, impending floods, or even hurricanes and tornadoes on the ground. You can can set up various predetermined alerts that will pop up on your phone at specific times, on certain days, and whatever weather condition you want to be notified of. You can even set up a daily summary to keep you in the loop, if you choose to. Click here to pick it up on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Meanwhile, apps like NOAA Hi-Def Radar aren’t as full-featured as Dark Sky, nor do all of them feature as slick of an interface, but this particular selection is easy to use and offers a clear image from NOAA’s satellites. You can check various different maps straight from the app, including where lightning strikes have been hitting all over the world, no matter where you currently are.

You also have the option to receive alerts for when lightning strikes up to 10 miles away from you, or when severe storm events break out in your vicinity. Given the data it pulls from to power said notifications, it’s an extremely reliable way to stay in the know even when you can’t be glued to your phone. Tap here to pick it up via the App Store or Google Play Store.

RadarScope (Apple StoreGoogle Play Store) and Accuweather are largely similar in that both apps have the same feature set without any need to purchase the apps to use them. They also offer a similar suite of notifications that you can customize to your liking. In the middle of a meeting or sitting at an appointment? You’ll never have to miss a storm warning again.

Banking apps

When it comes to banking, it’s a good idea to set up mobile alerts with your bank’s official app, whether it’s PNC, Bank of America, Chase, or whichever is your bank of choice. Most mobile banking alerts are sent via text or from the official banking mobile app, and can be set up via your online banking portal. You can choose from options that alert you if a certain amount is spent, if an international transaction is made, or even if gasoline is purchased, since service stations are typically a place where debit and credit cards are skimmed.

Depending on which bank you use, you’ll need to look in the app settings to set up special alerts, many of which utilize text messages instead of push notifications. Alternatively, apps like Mint can be set up to connect to your bank as a third-party app and can send you the same types of alerts, albeit with an expanded range of options. These apps will need access to some of your private data, but they can act as useful tools when it comes to keeping up with your transactions, including the ones you may have forgotten about, as they’ll just pop up on your screen to remind you.

Traffic apps

It can be extremely useful to know if you’re heading into a traffic jam before you actually get there. That’s where helpful apps like Waze, Google Maps and INRIX (Apple Store, Google Play Store) can come in. All have built-in GPS directions and features, but more importantly they’re capable of sending along alerts about traffic jams, accidents, hazardous conditions, and severe weather affecting particular routes.

Not only can they help you to outsmart traffic and figure out the best route to reach a particular destination, but most of them, particularly Waze, offer a wide selection of alert preferences. Waze, for instance, lets you set reminders for when you need to leave to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, having already chosen a route and letting you know when you need to be on your way.

Location-tracking apps

Weather, banking, and traffic are one thing, but your smartphone can actually allow you to track people, too. The iPhone’s built-in Find My Friends app can be configured with special alerts that will let you know when a friend has arrived or left a destination so you can keep in touch no matter what you two have planned. You can activate the future by adding friends via the Home screen of the app, then adding a contact’s name.

Once done, you will need to share your location with the friends you want to track, allowing friend requests from those who want the same of you. You can choose to set up notifications to alert your friends when you arrive or leave a location, or vice versa to keep track of what your friends are up to. This all depends on whether a friend has accepted your location sharing request, however.

Android users have a few different options to select from as well, such as the aesthetically pleasing Familo, which requires just a phone number to set up, Glympse, or the aptly-named Android version of Find My Friends, which isn’t the same app that iPhone users get of course, but it’s pretty close.

Security and pet apps

Sometimes you can’t be home or with your pets and you need to see what’s going on while you’re away. Those are all important concerns. Luckily, apps like the security-based Arlo (Apple Store, Google Play Store) suite, which can send notifications based on motion or noise detection inside or outside your home, can put your mind at ease. Meanwhile, fun apps like PetChatz (Apple Store, Google Play Store) send you alerts when your dog is being noisy, indicating a possible burglar or something you need to know about right away, while letting you communicate with your pet while you’re out of the house.

There are various different security suites that do require setup with either included cameras or your own webcam to track what goes on with your pets and your home in the event there’s an intruder. Many can be armed or disarmed remotely and you can even set up alerts to let you know if a family member is the one to have tripped the security cam’s sensor. These apps make it easy to protect your belongings, pets, and loved ones with alerts that pop up to make sure you know if anything is going down where you live.

Heart-tracking apps

Keeping an eye on one’s health can be a daunting task, especially if you’re dealing with heart problems or other medical issues. The new Apple Watch Series 4 comes with a much more formidable heart rate and heartbeat tracking app than the previous models, and as such it will alert you to irregular heartbeats, tachycardia, and other maladies that could befall your body.

You don’t have to be an Apple user to benefit from alerts like this, however. Devices like the Fitbit, which can work with all smartphones, can easily alert you when your resting heart rate is too high, though many of the more sophisticated tracking information will likely have to be left to the new Apple Watch devices, as they contain much more advanced tech to analyze this information. Still, important alerts can be sent from your device to your phone as soon as a problem is detected. You never know — the watch could save your life!

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