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Unshaken

Earthquake apps: Which ones are worth downloading?

Hands holding a phone with shaking motion
Californians should have MyShake on their phones. What about all the other earthquake apps?
(Gluekit / For The Times / Getty)

On April 5 before 5 a.m., I was awakened by what I thought was my upstairs neighbors rearranging their furniture. It wasn’t early-bird neighbors; it was an earthquake. Nowadays, there’s an app for everything, including information on earthquakes, and my phone blew up with notifications from earthquake apps.

At the time, I was testing the top 10 earthquake apps in the Apple app store for a week, looking at their accessibility — including price, languages and user experience — and accuracy.

Apps cannot predict when and where an earthquake will strike, but there is a relatively new early warning system for the U.S. West Coast. Those warnings will come through an app called MyShake.

“So if the Big One were to hit, it might give L.A. a minute or two of warning,” said Julian Lozos, assistant professor of geophysics at Cal State Northridge. Enough time to drop, cover and hold on somewhere safe.

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Here’s a look at the apps, what they have to offer and whether I’d recommend them.

At first glance, all 10 of the apps are fairly similar:

  • They provide the date, time, location, magnitude and more on the most recent earthquakes around the globe.
  • Most are data aggregators, pulling information from the U.S. Geological Survey or its European counterpart, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.
  • All are free to download. Some have paid upgrades, from 99 cents to $6.99, to remove ads or access more specific filters.

MyShake

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced MyShake as a statewide earthquake early warning app in 2019. It was developed at UC Berkeley and is available in English and Spanish. Simple and easy to use, the app has a self-reporting feature and very specific filters that allow users to watch only certain areas, which is great for keeping the number of notifications reasonable. If you have room for only one, this is the earthquake app for Southern Californians.
Verdict: Download

Red Cross

This app never sent me any alerts and doesn’t act as an earthquake tracker or early warning system. However, it’s a valuable resource for Southern Californians. It has supplemental information on what to do before, during and after an earthquake. It’s available in English.
Verdict: Download

LastQuake

This is the official app of the EMSC and has visual resources (think Ikea instructions) on earthquake preparedness and response. It’s available only in English, but the images allow the app to be easily navigable.
Verdict: For completists

You can buy a plethora of earthquake kits online, but which ones are the best for the price? Here’s a look at four off-the-shelf options.

Earthquake+ Alerts, Maps and Info

Very basic in its design and aesthetic, this app allows you to watch earthquakes and patterns. It also kept me updated on the earthquakes in my area. Has a very similar name to another app.
Verdict: Take it or leave it

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Earthquake+ Alerts, Map & Info

This app has specified filters on the map to include information on plate boundaries, seismic stations, nuclear plants and even active volcanoes. Has a very similar name to another app.
Verdict: Take it or leave it

QuakeFeed Earthquake Alerts

It’s free with ads and costs $4.99 for an ad-free version, but the ads are not bothersome and don’t interfere with information accessibility.
Verdict: Take it or leave it

Earthquake Lite Realtime Tracking App

This app offers the most variety of languages, 24. It offers information on tsunamis as well.
Verdict: Take it or leave it

My Earthquake Alerts

Offers four languages but is relatively similar in layout and data to all others.
Verdict: Take it or leave it

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People are much more important than kits. People will help each other when the power is out or they are thirsty. And people will help a community rebuild and keep Southern California a place we all want to live after a major quake.

Earthquake — alerts and map

This app hides filters behind a $2.99 paywall, which means you have no control over what earthquakes are reported to you. (There are more than 50 every day, according to the USGS; that means dozens of notifications a day.) This app is available in 17 languages, making it more accessible to a wider audience.
Verdict: Pass

Earthquake+

This app also hides filters behind a $3.99 paywall. But it’s available in 19 languages.
Verdict: Pass

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