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Air Quality Info On-The-Go? We Put Smartphone Apps To The Test

Valley Public Radio
Screen captures from three apps we tested: Valley Air, Air Visual and Air Matters

This winter has been an especially bad one for air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.  With long stretches of high particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5), staying informed with accurate info about air quality forecasts and current conditions is important for your health. We took a look at some popular apps for both iOS and Android devices that provide air quality information.

Valley Air: (official app of Valley Air District)
Pros: Accurate information; includes both forecasts and observed data; push notifications available
Cons: Dated design; push notifications require configuration to work; currently iOS only

AirNow: (official app from EPA)
Pros: Accurate information; compatible with iOS and Android
Cons: Dated design; lack of additional features; some bugs in upcoming forecasts, not as good as AirNow website

Air Matters:
Pros: Good user experience; provides PM 2.5, PM10, and ozone; push notifications available; compatible with iOS and Android
Cons: Design emphasizes pollen over air pollutants; reliability of data

Air Visual:
Pros: Good user experience; push notifications available; uses EPA monitor data; compatible with iOS and Android
Cons: Doesn't differentiate between actual conditions and forecasts; long-term air quality forecast not useful beyond 48 hours

Weather Underground:
Pros: Air quality info from official and crowd-sourced monitors; compatible with iOS and Android
Cons: Android experience different from iOS; questionable long term forecast data

Native iOS and Android weather apps:
iOS: No air quality information available, even after visiting website for more information
Android: Basic air quality information available, but reliability is questionable

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of KVPR / Valley Public Radio. He has led the station through major programming changes, the launch of KVPR Classical and the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership the station was named California Non-Profit of the Year by Senator Melissa Hurtado (2019), and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting (2022).
Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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