Weather Apps

Apps


Weather is a hot (and cold) topic this winter. More snow than usual is piling up in my Pennsylvania hometown. Single-digit temperatures are showing up on car dashboard displays here in Washington, D.C. Even New Orleans got a taste of “sneaux” last week.

Loads of weather apps aim to lure you with chirping notifications, cute puppies, gorgeous photography and 3-D globes. This week, I waded into the digital storm to test five popular apps: Yahoo Weather, Dark Sky, WeatherBug, The Weather Channel and Weather Puppy. All except two run on Apple’s iOS and Android’s operating systems; Dark Sky and Weather Puppy are iOS-only. Dark Sky costs $3.99; the others are free.

Though I’ve occasionally used weather apps in the past, I default to quickly checking the weather data built into my phone’s operating system, usually only when the weather is unusual.

But after writing this review, I can see myself using one app — Yahoo Weather — more regularly. This is a standalone app that’s packed with data, yet text and images are displayed in a clean, uncluttered manner. When precipitation was on its way, I also checked the Dark Sky app, and enjoyed its interactive design.

Below, a brief description of each app, including a forecast of its best and worst features:

Yahoo Weather DC

Yahoo Weather

Sunny: Elegant design displays a lot of data in a simple interface, includes beautiful photos.

Stormy: After just a few minutes of use, the app asked me if I wanted to switch my phone’s search engine to Yahoo.

The beauty of this app lies in its façade of simplicity. The first screen displayed is a Flickr image related to the city itself, or its weather conditions. In one instance, a photo of the Capitol at sunset filled my screen for my Washington, D.C., location. Basic weather details — the day’s high and low temperatures, current conditions and current temperature — appear at bottom-left. Swiping right to left displays photos and weather for other cities you’ve added. Up to 20 locations can be saved.

Swiping up lets you scroll through data that makes weather nerds smile. This includes the amount of precipitation predicted for morning, afternoon, evening and night; the position of the sun and shape of the moon; a map that shows satellite data, heat, wind and animated radar for the last hour and a half; and a five- or 10-day forecast, powered by Weather Underground Inc.

Other apps show this data and more, but make the mistake of squeezing as many details onto one screen as possible. In Yahoo Weather, blocks of information can be moved up by long-tapping on a handle in the top right and dragging the block up or down.

Dark Sky globe

Dark Sky

Sunny: A 3-D globe lets you swipe to explore countries around the world.

Stormy: No Android version, isn’t as full-featured as some other weather apps.

As its name implies, this $3.99 app is at its best when a storm’s a-brewin’. Even if you don’t have a storm in your area, you can tap on the location bar in Dark Sky to see another area where there’s an “interesting storm.”

Tap the bottom-left Map icon in Dark Sky to see a three-dimensional image of Earth, which spins when you swipe it and zooms in to focus on specific areas. Color coding quickly shows precipitation and temperatures around the world. I regularly opened this app and lost track of time while browsing around Asia, Australia and the Caribbean, just for fun.

Dark Sky’s home screen shows the current temperature and whether that number is rising or falling, which helped me when deciding which winter gear to take with me on walks. Another screen displays a week’s worth of temperatures in a clever way that lets you glance to instantly see what day will have the greatest range in degrees.

WeatherBug

WeatherBug

Sunny: Precise location data, Spark lightning notifier.

Stormy: Interface feels crowded with data, ads can’t be removed by paying for the app.

This tool originally gained notoriety for its annoying notifications, which sounded out a chirping sound when severe weather was on its way. These chirps are now off by default, so they won’t irk people who don’t want to hear them. WeatherBug uses the traditional National Weather Service data as well as its own local stations positioned on places like school roofs. This provides even more accurate location-based information, and there’s no limit to the number of locations you can save in the app.

WeatherBug also includes something called Spark, which, once turned on, gives minute-by-minute lightning-strike information.

But this app has ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen, and an ad-free paid version isn’t available. It also feels outdated and a little crowded, like it’s trying too hard to fit everything onto one screen. Later this month, a new version of the WeatherBug app will become available on iOS, followed by a version for Android this spring. A representative for Earth Networks said this new app will update the look of the WeatherBug, give the Spark lightning-detection feature a makeover, and move some app tools around, aiming to improve the user experience.

The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel

Sunny: Detailed data, lots of video, thanks to its corresponding TV channel.

Stormy: Interface can feel overwhelming and ho-hum.

The Weather Channel is one of the weather apps most commonly found on people’s smartphones. Its no-nonsense approach gives data — and lots of it — in a small space. The background of the app’s homepage changes to reflect the current weather in your location, and urgent notifications appear here so you don’t have to dig around for them.

As might be expected, TWC is chock-full of videos. These are sorted by four categories: Must See, Local/U.S., World and On TV. If you’re a weather nut, you’ll love watching these. But lots of people don’t have time to sit and watch videos, so they’ll just skim through the basic weather news in this app, which is thorough, but feels utilitarian and a bit dull.

The free version of the app has ads, while a $3.99 version nixes ads and throws in extra tools.

Weather Puppy

Weather Puppy

Sunny: Cute puppies give you a reason to check the weather.

Stormy: No Android version, lacks details found in more robust weather apps.

If you’re one of those people who consistently find themselves stuck without an umbrella, this app will give you a reason to check the weather. Each type of weather and time of day correlates to a different photo of a puppy. You might care less that it’s raining, because you have a cuddly canine on your screen. If you’re more of a cat person, try Weather Kitty.

Ads appear at the bottom of this app, but buying any of its themes, like Loving Labs for $1.99, will make the ads disappear.



28 comments
Oceo
Oceo

The very best U.S. domestic mobile weather app is the National Weather service app.  It provides point forecasts by Lat/Long location, ZIP code,locale, and click-on-the-map.  In addition to the last hour's observations from the nearest NWS official observing site and the 5-day forecast, other products are accessed simply by opening tabs:  Satellite images (local and regional, vis/IR) static and animated radar from the nearest NWS doppler radar site, graphics, astronomical data, special warnings and advisories, marine and river/lake forecasts  - essentially the entire forecast package for the desired location.  It includes the Forecast Discussion, comments by the forecaster on why a certain item was included, or updated, or excluded, a discussion of what models were used to formulate the forecast, the forecaster's degree of confidence in the forecast --  it's like having the forecaster at your elbow, guiding you through the products.

 Favorite locations can be saved and recalled.  


This high-resolution data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database.


Best of all if you are a U.S. taxpayer  --  you've already paid your $0.11 annual cost!!


All the other respectable weather sites get their data from the NWS  -- why not go to the source yourself.


At www.weather.gov  punch any location or ZIP code into the Local forecast box at the upper left of the screen.  The link to the mobile app is at the right-hand end of the "Current Conditions" box.

@JHaughwout
@JHaughwout

It is good to see a wide range of apps here, especially some of the newer apps. The guys who built Dark Sky have some even more interesting work over at forecast.io that is worth checking out. As a developer, I am impressed with the simplicity of their API and some interesting approaches on HTML5 App-less Apps and graphical mashups. Their blog is definitely worth reading.


PS - I do not work there, I just like to point out good work when I see it.

neatfreakgreek
neatfreakgreek

Weatherbug had an ad-free Elite version for YEARS. It was recently pulled from both the App Store and Google Play -- without a peep from the company. 


WeatherChannel also has a paid, ad-free version called Weather Channel Max. But it hasn't been updated since April. That's a lifetime in app years.


I've purchased both, and have been very disappointed that they've been pulled and/or abandoned.


I get it -- the ad versions probably pulls in more revenue than the paid, ad-free versions. But many customers already bought these apps...and to abandon them without a peep is terrible customer service. Especially when there's always another, better weather app around the corner.


Katie - how bout a comment from them on the status of their paid apps?


Even a simple statement like "We have decided to focus all our efforts on the ad-supported version, and will no longer be updating the paid app."



HD_Dude
HD_Dude

Nice review, thanks.


Personally, I like Accuweather's paid version on my Android phone, tablet and also on my iPad. Incredibly accurate, great graphics and just the right amount of alerts. 


I used to use Weather Underground, until the Weather Channel bought them out.


I have an issue with the way the Weather Channel names winter storms as a marketing and ratings gimmick - even though NOAA and the NWS do not name them. Too cheesy. No reflection on accuracy - they're great - but I want real weather data - not Weather Channel cuteness.





Garthman
Garthman

Yahoo Weather is pretty, but it must have fewer weather reporting stations. I have a place in Shaver Lake, CA, at elevation 5,700 feet. Yahoo weather recognizes Shaver Lake, but I figured out it reports temperature and forecast for Fresno, CA, only 50 miles away but 5,000 feet lower in elevation. This leads to errors of up to 40 degrees and three feet of snow being predicted as one inch of rain. Worse than useless. The Weather Channel app is accurate at this location.

krgraham
krgraham

Yahoo Weather is nice, but you ignored it's major bug. It has real problems trying to find Current Location and is consistently wrong. There's a long thread online about this bug. Turning the Current Location OFF makes this app useable.


Take a look at Weather Now. It has an easy-to-read Forecast page and interface.

Tmbrwlf
Tmbrwlf

Weather Underground is the best!

shattuck004
shattuck004

 Great article. But what about Weather Underground (Wunderground)? The Yahoo Weather app even pulls their forecasts directly from Wunderground. 

BigKen
BigKen

Weather Underground - this is my favorite.  It's easy to use, accurate and gives the most technical weather info (like sunrise/ sunset) in a simple interface.  and for $5 you can easily remove ads. It works on all platforms.

dseo
dseo

It is curious that two of the five don't have android versions, why?

Jim Crigler
Jim Crigler

I've been using the Weather Underground site for 10 years. $5 / year for all my use, shared with my wife across 6 different devices. Lots of data + Wundermaps that can include personal weather stations and layered details of my choosing.

TwoCybers
TwoCybers

Katie I have an iPhone version of WeatherBug that is Ad Free - had it since iPhone 3S or iPhone4.  I really hate the iPad version - for Ads and also poor UI.

madfoot
madfoot

 I'm really upset you didn't say anything about "raining cats and dogs" in the puppy app review. :(

KatieBoehret
KatieBoehret

Thanks for your comments --and for reading! I didn't have enough room to mention all aspects of each app, nor could I mention every weather app made. But I hope this review helps at least a few people know when to bring their umbrella or whether or not to wear gloves for the morning run.

Bob Rapp
Bob Rapp

Nice review...thanks! Another favorite weather app, especially for the iPad, is Intellicast for those folks who want a deep dive into meteorological information.

melfi
melfi

You should check out Weather Line for iOS. It's been the most accurate weather app I've found (at least for NYC weather). Great hourly and day display.

koeiseun
koeiseun

I love my accuweather app.  Yahoo is great visually, but I am a detail nerd, so knowing whether is will rain and what the RealFeel is in an hour makes for great planning when I run outdoors.

WhereTruth
WhereTruth

Nice review. For those of us who like to maximize our chances of a safe road trip, some state department of transportation web sites have a lot of useful road condition info. I have to travel I-80 across Wyoming a lot and have found their site,

http://www.wyoroad.info/pls/Browse/WRR.RoutesResults?SelectedRoute=I80.

quite handy. At a glance I can see a summary of the road conditions for the entire 360+ miles with access to forecasts, road cams, and weather station data.

Another fun site (for some of us weirdos) is a wind map of the US: http://hint.fm/wind/index.html

Cheers

bdell
bdell

I also like MyRadar if you are really into the Dopler radar. Great maps with multicolor blobs of precipitation and layers to view storms. Not likely a stand alone weather app but a good complementary one for those who like to see and tract storm movement.

hello
hello

You forgot to mention the best part about Dark Sky. It will send you a notification 15 minutes before it starts to rain where you are, so if you're in that leisurely walk, you can quickly scuttle back to your car.

Kevin D. Boutelle
Kevin D. Boutelle

SurviveAndThrive beat me to it but Weather Underground has made some very useful advancements with the latest release of their app. I use it and the accompanying widgets on Android and have yet to find anything more accurate or informative. 

SurviveAndThrive
SurviveAndThrive

 You totally left out Weather Underground.  Easily more focused on the actual weather and detailed than any of these.  

HD_Dude
HD_Dude

@Oceo  Thank you for this information. Very helpful. 


However, I'm having trouble finding the actual NWS app. Using your directions, I see the ability to share the weather page, but no link for an app.


I do, however, see the NOAA app on Google Play - it looks good, but is that the one you're discussing?


Thanks for your help.

BobMonsoon
BobMonsoon

@dseo Both Dark Sky and Weather Puppy/Kitty are made by tiny companies with less than 5 employees each. I think it's a question of resources, not desire to be on Android. I know Weather Puppy is working on their Android app as they have an Android sign up page on their site: http://weatherpuppy.com/android.html.

KatieBoehret
KatieBoehret

@madfoot  Yeah, I blew it, Amy. And here I thought I'd get cheesy points for my hot and cold lede... ;)

Oceo
Oceo

@HD_Dude @Oceo  

Further.

It's a link now, not an app.

The NOAA apps at Google Play Store seem to be riffs on the base data.  I see that the U.K. Met Office has provided a free link.  Might be worth investigating as most of the Met Office data are not free.If you or any other reader wish to get more official data and global model data  make a "favorites" icon for meteocentre.com. ALL the useful model data, observations, etc., are there.  Published by University of Quebec at Montreal.

Oceo
Oceo

@HD_Dude @Oceo 

Rrrrrrrright!!  Now I need to get at the  "mobile weather" link thru a browser by first going to any location (e.g. your hometown) through weather.gov, then open "mobile weather", then save that web-page link/address( "NWS mobile weather")  to the home page of my Android mobile by holding down the browser's address box and choosing "Add to home screen" from the pop-up options box. On the mobile's home page there should be some sort of an icon labeled NWS mobile weather". I then slide that icon on the mobile's home screen to a page of my choosing (my other wx favorites/apps). 


I just went through the exercise again and it worked for me. Please let me know if these directions work for  you.  Once the "anchor" location is in the device other locales can be added to the list.  Great for a road trip!!

HD_Dude
HD_Dude

@Oceo @HD_Dude  Perfect. 


That worked like a charm. Thank you.


And let me encourage everyone reading this to go straight to the source. as Oceo said. Why use a middleman when you can use the NWS itself?


Thanks again!

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