iOS Weather Apps

After recently discussing all of the calendar apps on my iPhone, I needed to address the other overload I have, weather apps. Like calendar apps, most iOS weather apps have pros and cons and if some of them could be combined the quintessential weather app would exist. Instead, it takes several to accomplish all of the needs of a good weather app.

Obviously this varies person to person, but here is the information I am looking for:

  1. What is the temperature right now?
  2. What is the temperature going to be over the next 18 hours or so?
  3. What is the temperature going to be over the next 3-4 days?
  4. If there is precipitation in the forecast, when and how much?
  5. Alerts for severe weather in my area

Counting the built-in iOS weather app, my iPhone is currently home to seven weather applications.

Built-in iOS Weather (Free; included)

The built-in iOS Weather app can’t be removed, so everyone is stuck with it no matter what. It provides weather information in Notification Center that show current conditions, the current temperature and the high for the day (whether it’s a past or future high). Clicking on this launches a weather app that is significantly improved from iOS 6. It lists the location, conditions and current condition prominently. It also shows the high/low for the day, as well as a scrollable hourly forecast that goes out about 10 hours and shows temperature, conditions and percentage chance of precipitation. It also shows a 5-day forecast with conditions and high/low temps. Definitely a decent amount of information, and because of it’s prominence in Notification Center it’s easy to get to.

Yahoo! Weather (Free)

Yahoo/s weather app is gorgeous to say the least. The initial screen shows current conditions/temperature plus high/low temps for the day. It also uses a picture from flickr to represent the current conditions. Well this is nice to look at, it doesn’t add much value and just takes up screen space. Scrolling down a bit reveals an hourly forecast for the next 24 hours with temps, conditions and percentage of precipitation. A five-day forecast with conditions/high/low is shown by default, but a 10-day version can be loaded on demand.

A detailed forecast for the current day lies below that followed by a weather map and percentage chance of precipitation broken down into four categories depending on time of day. For example, in the morning it shows Afternoon, Evening, Night and Overnight. Then comes wind and barometric pressure and a sweet picture of the where the sun is now relative to sunrise/sunset and the phase of the moon currently.

Yahoo!’s weather app is by far the best looking and does offer a solid amount of information. It falls a bit short by requiring scrolling to see more than the current conditions though.

The Weather Channel (Free)

One of the veterans of iOS weather apps, it seems like this one has been around since the beginning. It had a longstanding problem with out of date information and radar. A refresh button was finally added to the forecast page, but it still doesn’t seem to refresh the radar. While recent iterations have made the radar refresh more reliable, it’s still not good enough.

The rest of the app is OK. The initial launch page, much like the Yahoo! version, just shows temperature and current conditions by default. A 24-hour hourly forecast, 36 hour detailed forecast, and a 10-day forecast are just a click away. There is definitely some screen space dedicated to watching videos from their TV channel, but they don’t really get in the way.

Their radar is top notch when it’s current, and their severe weather alerts also seem to be by far the most reliable. Advantages of this vs. Yahoo! Weather most likely come down to personal preference.

Perfect Weather ($2.99)

Just released in September, this app perfectly fits the iOS 7 aesthetic. The app shows current conditions and current temperature by default. It has accordion-style tabs that can be pulled down/up to display more/less info. The first tab shows the projected high/low for the day plus percentage of precipitation. The next tabs shows a 6 day forecast including conditions, highs/lows and precipitation chance. The last one show a line graph with the next 24 hours showing where the temperature will be and when the high and low will occur during that time. It also contains a beautiful radar that is probably second only to the Weather Channel app as far as how good it looks.

At times the weather forecasts haven’t matched what shows up in other applications and I even sent a message to support about it, but I am not sure anything was ever done. This is a good weather app, but top to bottom is missing some features found elsewhere. Many people though, think this app lives up to it’s name.

Dark Sky ($3.99)

Dark Sky is unique in a sense that it almost exclusively focuses on precipitation. It has gone through some iterations but the state at the time of this post is as follows. The main screen shows current precipitation and temperature, precipitation in the next hour, and a graph showing that precipitation with projected intensity. A button at the bottom expands a pane that shows a forecast for the current approximate time range (like morning), then shows temperature ranges for the next 3 hours, then like the Yahoo! app, “chunks” of time later (e.g. This Afternoon, This Evening, Overnight). It also includes a unique radar, that I personally finally difficult to read.

The focus of this app is to pinpoint when precipitation will occur, almost down to the minute. It will often say things like “light rain starting in 15 minutes”, and for some people this proved to be startling accurate. Personally, I found it to be hit or miss. It was great when a big storm was moving across the state towards Chicago and you wanted an idea of when exactly it would hit. But when storms pop up quickly, it doesn’t seem to react quick enough, leading to times where it would be 15 minutes into a rain storm and the app would still say that not only wasn’t it raining, but that rain wasn’t coming soon.

A favorite feature of many people with this app is that it can be configured to actually send push notifications when precipitation is close. This seems like a great idea, but doesn’t allow a user to hardcode a location in, instead it requires location services be enabled. The app itself, in fact, has a bug where if Location Services are turned off, the app upon launch won’t load any data until a specific location is selected.

Overall this app does one thing, and depending on the individual person it might do it very well, or very poorly. Unless its proven to be very accurate, this one doesn’t offer enough for most people.

Weather Underground (Free)

Weather Underground had become my goto weather website in the last couple of years. The website is a little clunky at times, and there is so much information on it that sometimes it’s hard to find what you want quickly. It also lacks a true “hourly” forecast, instead of opting for three hour blocks.

The iOS app just got a massive re-design and it has become very Yahoo! like in the sense that it’s just one long scrolling page where all the information shows up. Unlike the Yahoo! app though, these sections cannot be re-ordered. The first screen offers slightly more information than Yahoo! like “feels like” temperature and a snapshot of the current radar. Weather Underground also has their standard “Today’s temperature is forecast to be [same/colder/warmer/etc.] temperature as yesterday” making it really easy to figure out what to wear as long as you know what the weather was like yesterday.

Scrolling down shows a spiffy line graph with the next few days temperature plotted on it. Each day also shows high/low, precipitation chance and wind. There is an hourly view also available. This appears to be scrollable back a few hours and forward out about the next 18 hours or so. The day view goes out about a week and back the last two days. Below that is a map with radar and current temps in the area. The radar is available from a dedicated button at the top at all times though. It then shows sunrise/sunset and the moon. Then there is an extended forecast written out in words.

One note about Weather Undergrounds radar: whatever radar station they use southwest of Chicago produces a lot of interference on their radar. This causes splotches where there isn’t bad weather, and can even block out the bad weather on the radar if they overlap. This is a major problem, and it seems odd that in a big city area like Chicago they can’t do better.

If anyone wanted to accuse Weather Underground of stealing Yahoo!’s design, it would be hard to argue. But while Yahoo!’s app is nicer looking, Weather Underground does a better job of conveying the information. The push notifications haven’t worked for me since the redesign though. And the radar issues are extremely annoying.

Weather Line ($2.99)

Weather Line is another recently released weather app, that has a lot going for it. It loads very fast and quickly provides information in a line graph view. Starting with the current conditions and going out each hour for the next 36 hours or so, it shows the projected temperature and conditions along with either an orange or gray indicator whether it’s before after sunrise/sunset. Clicking on any of these segments upgrade the information below which contains “feels like”, precipitation chance, humidity, wind and sunrise/sunset times. This same view can be shown at the day level for the next 7 days as well. A historical view of the entire year is also available at the month level.

Weather Line uses the aforementioned Dark Sky’s API to show precipitation predictions for the next hour and the future where applicable. This touch means that a person who has Weather Line probably does’t need Dark Sky too. The clever touches like making the line a different color for night and day is nice, and the raindrops are even filled in depending on how much rain is projected for that time.

This app lacks any sort of radar or alerts though, meaning that on it’s own it probably can’t get the job done.

Wrap-Up

Weather Line has been my weather app of choice for the last few months. It quickly shows most of the information I am generally looking for. It’s lack of severe weather alerts and radar make it unable to stand on it’s own. Dark Sky is integrated in Weather Line, so it isn’t needed. Yahoo! Weather is nice looking for doesn’t offer enough on it’s own, so it can go as well. Weather Underground is a great possible secondary app if the push notifications would start working for me again, even with it’s radar issues. Apple’s built-in weather alerts haven’t worked for me either, so in order to fill that void Weather Channel will hang around for now. It’s radar refresh issue is too big a problem, so I will also keep Perfect Weather for now, which probably has the best radar of all. But I will continue to look for a single app to supplement Weather Line.

Prices are as of the publishing of this article