Weather apps. If one app category gets its own entire section in the Play Store, you should surmise that the choices are beyond wide and the selection is almost impossible. Even browsing the category is a daunting minefield of Froyo-stuck designs and mediocre data and options. So why bother with a third-party weather client, especially when Google Now has its own weather card, Android comes with a News & Weather app, and a simple Google search for the name of your city with the word weather turns up the result you're looking for?
Details for one. Weather apps can provide a breadth of information that Google's knowledge graph and cards don't have. They can also grab their data from various providers that might happen to be more accurate where you live. And they can have a large selection of widget styles to fit with your homescreen's look. Plus more reasons.
That's why today I'm taking a look at some interesting weather apps for Android. I have divided this roundup into subcategories to address the various types and styles of weather apps, then picked a couple of interesting choices in each with a few honorable mentions to follow. As with any roundup of Android apps, and especially in this case, it's not possible for me to test all of the apps available so I can't claim that these are the top or best, but what I can say are the reasons that make them special and why I think they are good enough to deserve a place on your phone or tablet.
Material Weather Apps
Weather Timeline - Forecast
If weather apps could be called sexy, Weather Timeline would certainly be among the first in the running for the title. And if they simply had to settle for a Material Design Award, then Weather Timeline already snatched it.
Weather Timeline is very unique in the way it presents weather information, opting (as the name suggests) for a timeline interface somewhat akin to what you'd see when trying to get walking or public transport directions. Your timeline starts with an expandable card of the current conditions, then moves to the next 24 hours followed by the next 7 days, each of which can be tapped to reveal more details, with graphs of daily and weekly temperature, pressure, precipitation, and wind. There's also a time machine that can travel years down the line and predict the weather (based on the past), a moon phase viewer, and a live radar view.
Material design is heavily, albeit subtly, engrained in Weather Timeline. From the cards' rounded corners to the FABs that let you add a new location or pick the radar map's layer, everything is smooth, interactive, and simply beautiful. But the app isn't rigid in its choices: color themes, icon packs, units, animations, widgets, and even the color of the FAB and the rounded corners can be tinkered with from the settings. You also get Android Wear support, a permanent notification, an optimized tablet interface, and a selection of Weather providers to choose from including forecast.io and Weather Underground. Weather Timeline isn't free but it's definitely worth the small price of admission.
Simple Weather follows the Material spec almost to the letter. There's no subtlety or originality here as you see with Weather Timeline, but it does get the job done while looking like something Google cooked in its own labs. Case in point: the full height nav drawer, the solid action bar, the transparent status bar, the card-based interface, the FAB for notifications and map layers, and the scrolling animation when you view a day's details.
Perhaps the most delightfully original thing about Simple Weather is the way you can swipe on the location in the nav drawer to switch to another city. It's one of those interactions that's so simple it made me wish for it in apps with account pickers, like Gmail and Google Drive.
Simple Weather grabs its data from Forecast.io, and that includes hourly and daily forecasts, graphs, and maps. There's an expandable weather notification and a widget if you want a quick way to check the temperature. All of it is free with ads, which are removed with an IAP.
Amber Weather may seem like one of the most unassuming weather apps on the Play Store, but it packs a ton of personalization options under its belt. The focus here isn't on the teeniest of weather details so don't expect graphs and maps and moon phases, but instead you have a huge selection of options to make the various elements of the app look exactly like you want.
And we're not only talking about the colors of the main interface. There's the widget theme, the lock screen design, and the various choices of icon sets, live wallpapers, and notifications. For example, the Dynamic icon set includes animations, and the Star icons look awesome with the Space widget.
Amber also packs a "Labs" section where you can enable beta features like earthquake and tsunami alerts, yesterday's weather, and a world clock.
Weather by AreSimple takes a completely different approach to forecasts. Where other apps will show you data for preset times (current conditions, hourly, daily, etc), this one asks you what time you are actually interested in. Want to know what tomorrow 4-6pm will be like? Adjust the drop-downs and it will show you the weather for that timeframe exclusively.
You get to pick the location, the date, the hours, and the data you want to see. If you're more interested in the apparent temperature than the measured one, you can pick that. If you don't care about the humidity level, you can hide it. If you only want to see the wind and cloud covers, you can limit the app to that. The results show up as a summary with the highs and lows, or as an hourly graph with all of the variations.
It sure is an interesting approach, and has its merits if you always check your weather app every morning for the wind and chance of rain before your 5pm football match but you don't care for weather conditions at other times of the day.
Sometimes all you want is a glanceable forecast and a no-frills interface. That's where Nice Weather (and the other alternatives mentioned below) come into play.
Nice Weather's main advantage is in its scrollable and swipeable interface. A swipe will switch days, but a gentle horizontal scroll will move across the graph of the current day, with the temperature, wind, chance of rain, and big weather icon following along, and the colors switching according to the forecast and time of day.
Nice Weather is free for one location, but you'll have to dip into your wallet to get multiple cities and widget support.
For the longest time, back when I was using a Symbian device, AccuWeather was synonymous with weather forecasts for me. The app had a lot of details, an accurate hourly chance of rain prediction, and was one of the few providers with a large location database that had more than just Beirut among its Lebanese cities.
AccuWeather carried over being one of my go-to apps on Android, and has received numerous updates over the years to add functionality, improve its design, and get even better. The current iteration has detailed graphs and cards for any day or time of day, a permanent notification, a choice of widgets, weather maps, forecast videos, and even some good ol' news videos sprinkled in to complete the package. Unfortunately, the app remains firmly rooted in the Holo era, making it feel slightly dated on modern devices.
Good design doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for well-known weather providers on the Play Store, and most services appear stuck somewhere between a decent Holo and a mediocre Material implementation. For these apps, the amount of data provided and the brand identity trump whatever Google had in mind for its app design, and the focus is on presenting said data in an acceptable package.
That's the case with Weather Underground, an app that crams as much information as possible in one scrollable page. There are the usual current conditions, a graph for hourly and daily predictions, a map of your surroundings, and a health section for the UV Index, air quality, and flu cases. Weather Underground also has ski and hurricane reports, and comes in a dark or light theme, with a notification and a widget.
… is grumpy. Really grumpy. This widget has an always-annoyed approach to the weather, similar to Authentic Weather, but stripped of its social sharing element and with more designs. It drops grumpy gems on your homescreen like, "we will all die anyway," "enjoy the weather while you can, tomorrow will be worse," or, "do you know what's great about this weather? Fucking nothing."
Grumpy Weather is free and has a few settings for units and locations, but if you want to replace the dull white icon with grumpy characters, you can shell $1 per character pack. You have a choice of grumpy cats, zombies, reapers, dinosaurs, yetis, bunnies, and more. Yes, bunnies can be grumpy too.
Your choice is quite limited when looking for a social-based weather app on Android. You can use the social section of The Weather Channel, go for Weather Signal which has an added value if you still own a Galaxy S4 with its built-in thermometer, try InstaWeather if you're only interested in sharing but not viewing, or give SunnyComb a go. The app, owned by Japanese company Weathernews (which has recently acquired Weathermob, the most prominent social weather app on iOS), lets you share your current weather through a photo.
The interface is a honeycomb (hence the name) of photos shared around the world, near you, or in a specific location you searched for. This can either be uplifting or depressing — depends on how much you envy others' weathers. The center tile takes you to your current location's forecast, with a draggable graph of temperatures and swipeable pages for each day. Each hour and day are tacked with an hexagon that shows pictures of what the weather will likely be, by grabbing shared photos from other locations in similar conditions.
You can follow users in SunnyComb to get their weather updates, and the app learns how the weather affects your mood and starts predicting your emotional state depending on the forecast. SunnyComb is decent as it is now, but the acquisition of Weathermob is why it's on my radar of social weather apps. I want to see how this union affects the app in the future.
A lot of weather apps try to superpose the information on top of background photos or graphics, but YoWindow takes it a step further with sounds, a parallax effect when you tilt your device, and animated landscapes that change with the time of day. YoWindow looks good on phones, but the app really has its home on tablets in landscape, where most of the interface hides away and you're left with just the image, time, and weather.
You can pick from landscapes like a valley, village, the seaside, an airport, a pagoda, and a simple sky view, then when you drag your finger horizontally, you'll see the sun rise and set, the colors of the scene change according to daylight, dusk, and dawn, the moon (in its accurate phase), the rain and snow fall according to the forecast, all with the corresponding sounds (cow in the village, boats in the seaside, etc) to each scene. It's as live of a weather view as you can get, but the number nerds need not fret from this visual approach: each point on the timeline has its own expandable card overlay with detailed data.
YoWindow's fonts and icons seem stuck in an older era of Android, which is a bit of a shame as the rest of the app (location search, settings, overflow menu) does have a Material feel. YoWindow predictably can be set as a live wallpaper, but also as a Daydream, and it has widgets, a permanent notification, and a few settings to enable or disable the various elements and animations inside the app.
It's hard to pick one or even ten good weather apps on Android when the choice is so wide and varied. Personally, after testing out over thirty apps for this roundup, I was rather taken by Weather Timeline's elegant design and YoWindow's animations and sounds always elicited a smile (that cow moo!) whenever I opened the app to test it out.
But that's just me. What about you? Are you content with Google Now's weather card or do you use a third-party weather app?