I’ve talked a lot about air quality lately — as a Californian, it’s a hard subject to avoid, but as the many wildfires affecting the West Coast have a tendency to drift into more eastern states, depending on the weather, it should matter to those outside of the affected areas, too. I’ve already discussed the many different apps you can use to check the air quality index for a given location, but I’ve recently found something even better to gauge whether or not it’s a good day to go outside: a self-updating iOS widget.
To use it, you’ll need iOS 14, naturally. Assuming you’ve installed the update by now, you’ll only need to download one tiny, free app: Bret Taylor’s Air Quality Reader. (Bless him for not charging an arm and a leg for this incredibly useful setup.)
Open the app, give it permission to use your location, and enjoy a quick educational update about what the Air Quality Index actually means:
You can then use the app as-is; zoom around your location to find the nearest Air Quality Index sensor near you. You can’t do anything with this information — tapping on the sensor point does nothing, so you won’t really know what kind of sensor the measurement represents. Still, it’s something.
The real strength of the app, however, is its widget. Head on back to your Home screen, long-press anywhere that isn’t an app icon, and tap on the “+” icon in the upper-left corner of your iPhone. Scroll down a bit until you see “Air Quality” as a widget option, and tap on it. Tap the purple “Add Widget” button to do just that.
You’ll now get a tiny little map of your location; hopefully, there’s a sensor (or many) nearby. However, if you’re coming up blank for the areas you frequent most — like, say, your house — you can also long-press on the widget and tap on “Edit Widget,” which will allow you to manually set a location.
Though it’s a crude workaround, at least you’ll be able to set the widget to the closest nearby sensor if it’s too far away to appear on your map by default.
In a perfect world, a widget would simply give you a number for the closest AQI sensor — or, better yet, a median measurement taken from the readings of some of the sensors closest to you, if you’re in an area that has a ton. I’m sure someone will build that into their app soon, if they aren’t working on it already. Until then, Air Quality Reader is the next best thing, especially if you’re living in an area where the air quality isn’t so great nowadays. Pinpointing those rare days you can both go outside and breathe is a treat.
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