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Mobile App Review: Weather Apps, Part 2
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Mobile App Review: Weather Apps, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Weather Apps, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Weather Apps, Part 2

In Part 1 of our Weather Apps review, we evaluated many of the higher-profile weather apps, those that are consistently receiving high ratings or are published by big names like Yahoo. Our clear favorite was Dark Sky for its hugely crowd-sourced micro-forecasts and enough data to keep the deepest diving weather geeks happy while also being accessible enough for anyone wanting to know a little more than the wind speed, temperature, and precipitation at the nearest airport. The others apps we listed were basically tied for second, and their value depended on what someone might want in a less-involved app.

In this review, we tried to go off the board just a bit, looking for indie releases with niche appeal, a search for hidden gems that don’t make the annual best-of lists. Each of these apps is free, with some offering in-app purchases, and for this set we stuck with Android apps.

Of this batch of apps, we have a particular fondness for ARCUS. The clean interface makes everything easy to see and understand, but its simplicity in design comes with some nice features. In addition to forecasting the weather for your specific location, it allows you to save favorite locations. You can have “work,” “home,” and “gym” locations, for example, so that three quick clicks lets you see what’s going on now or in the near future for each site. It might be clear as a bell at home, but is it drizzling at work? A quick look at the app will tell you whether you should bother with a windbreaker.

Tabs for current conditions as well as hourly and daily conditions are super-useful, and mini forecasts are available in each. In the hourly tab, you can click on noon and get the forecast temperatures, wind, precipitation, humidity, and dew point at that hour, and then click on 1 PM to see how things might change. The daily tab offers the same info for specific days in the coming week. Different in-app purchases get rid of ads, allow 30-minute data refresh intervals (as compared to one-hour refreshes for the unpaid), touch-widget refreshing, up to 10 saved locations, and data refresh intervals however you wish to customize them. ARCUS is aboslutely worth a look.

There is a plethora of apps out there that basically give you cute characters or wallpapers telling you the general (open data) conditions. Dog lovers will find dogs who tell them the temperature, while cat lovers can find similar feline versions. Some wallpapers animate according to the conditions or time of day. Our favorite of these, if we could get it to locate correctly, would be 3D WEATHER LIVE WALLPAPER, whose default wallpaper is a pleasing, animated field of windmills. The turbines spin, the clouds float by, the sun lightens the sky until night takes over. If the app has difficulty pinpointing your exact location, you can drop a pin on an agonizingly slow-to-respond map. The + and - buttons zoom in a bit, but the screen refresh takes forever, and the increments are so small it took about ten clicks (and ten refreshes) to get kind of close, but if we tried to get close enough to see streets, the map wouldn’t render at all. After multiple attempts at dropping a pin exactly where we were, we gave up and decided to be happy with close enough. It’s only a wallpaper, after all, and we still have Arcus for the good stuff. It’s a pretty app but it’s not very user-friendly.

We also like WEATHER ULTIMATE, which is a simple app with a pretty look. Its background photo is determined by your location, while basic weather data is overlaid in visually pleasing sections of the display. You can add several cities for a variety of info (and a variety of pretty photos), but city-level location is as specific as you’ll get. You won’t find anything fancy here, but you could do a lot worse (a LOT worse!) with similar basic-data apps in the store.

Finally, if there’s one thing we think Android devices do better than iOS devices, it’s handling widgets. We looked at widgets that took advantage of having a constant desktop presence and did so in a pleasing way. Yes, most of the apps we looked at came with widgets (some in separate installations), but we wondered what a widget-specific, widget-only app might offer. Of the handful we evaluated, we were particular smitten with GRUMPY WEATHER, which displays the time, your location, the temperature, a rough image of the conditions (right now, it’s showing a line-drawing of a cloud), and in large type, a grouchy commentary either on the weather right now or on weather in general. “GREAT WEATHER? DOES NOT EXIST!” is one favorite. Another asks us if we’ve put a photo of this great [expletive deleted] weather on Instagram yet. It’s a nice break from the boring norms of weather conversation, and it’s given us a chuckle or two since we installed it. Be warned that this is probably not appropriate for children; the language is definitely PG-13 or R-rated. If you don’t have young ones around, however, it’s quite fun.

 

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Mobile App Review: Weather Apps, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

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