When smartphones first hit the market, it seemed like one of the “core” apps every smartphone got was a weather app. Part of this was probably due to the graphic nature of weather information and forecasts that could benefit from a smartphone screen. Add in the mobile nature so users could always have up to date weather no matter where they were and it makes absolute sense. The fact that weather apps came pre-installed did not stop developers from working on third-party weather apps, especially if they could be tied into an existing service on other platforms like the ubiquitous Weather Channel on virtually every cable and satellite service lineup and appearing in every hotel lobby.
Like the constantly changing weather, apps to keep up with the weather frequently change as well, so we are taking a look at some of the top weather apps this summer.
Heading up the list is the popular WeatherBug app. Compared to some other apps and despite attempts to incorporate some Material Design guidelines, WeatherBug tends to be one of the “busier” looking apps in terms of the user interface. That is not necessarily a bad thing as WeatherBug packs a lot of information and features into the app and, despite this, the app is easy to navigate and gets to the information you are looking for.
On the main page when starting up the app users get basic, current weather conditions with a small radar inset. Tapping on the radar opens it full screen where it can be zoomed, panned, animated and other layers turned on or off. Back on the main screen you can slide to the right to access weather details like wind data, sunrise and moonrise information, pollen counts, precipitation, hourly forecasts; and a 10-day forecast.
WeatherBug also includes a variety of activity forecasts for 13 different lifestyles like a Fitness forecast, Golf forecast, Lawn Care, or a Beauty forecast. Users can also access news, photos and live weather cams.
One feature that sets WeatherBug apart is their Spark lightning detection system. Not only can you open a map display to see where lightning strikes have been recorded, you can set the app to alert you if any come within the danger zone.
The next top weather app in our guide is AccuWeather. The developers of AccuWeather have put in some work to produce a clean, Material Design-inspired user interface. However, that comes at the expense of some features as the AccuWeather app tends to stick to the basics. From the main screen when you open the app you get current conditions. This goes beyond the temperature and any current weather activity like rain to include some other weather data like pressure, humidity and wind speed/direction data.
AccuWeather tries to set itself apart by providing MinuteCast, an attempt to provide a detailed precipitation forecast for the next 120 minutes. This can be displayed using a circular graph or as a list.
Joining MinuteCast are traditional hourly and daily forecasts, radar maps, and some AccuWeather-produced videos and news stories. All of these make good use of screen real estate and drill downs are available for things like daily and hourly forecast details.
The Yahoo Weather app joins AccuWeather in going for an app that may not have the most features, but presents weather data in a super clean user interface. Unlike other weather apps that make use of right and left swipes to get to a variety of information, Yahoo Weather presents everything in one long scrolling screen.
Besides current conditions, users will find they can access hourly forecasts and 5- or 10-day forecasts along with a detailed narrative forecast for the next day or evening. Users also have access to a map that can show radar, satellite, temp or wind data. Unlike most of the weather apps, the Yahoo Weather radar map can not be animated to show the movement of storms over time.
Yahoo also included links to several of their other platforms like Yahoo Sports, News Digest, Mail or Finance to name a few. This could be useful for users who still use the Yahoo! platform.
Similar to Yahoo! Weather, The Weather Channel uses a single vertically scrolling screen to present information to the user. The app starts out with basic weather conditions following by more detailed data and then hourly and 10-day forecasts. Scrolling on down past some video options, users will find that radar screen which can be tapped to open to take up the whole app screen.
The radar function is quite robust with several alert layers that can be selected like severe storm warning, floods, or winter weather. Users can also choose from data layers like radar, clouds, temps, wind and others. For animation, The Weather Channel offers both past and future options.
The Weather Channel also incorporates some functions like news, pollen count data, a flu report, and airport data. Users may also notice that they encourage users to report weather data in an effort to make the app more “social” along the lines of WeatherBug. The Weather Channel also offers an option to be warned of lightning strikes.
Our final weather app to check out is Weather Underground, or Wunderground. Weather Underground is based on a single vertically scrolling screen, but the developers use a simple white background, giving the app a more Material Design feel. The main screen does present current condition data, but also has a small radar inset that can be tapped to open the radar screen. A couple other data points are available on the main screen like winds data and the precipitation forecast, both of which are joined by a short narrative forecast.
Moving on down users are presented with a forecast table that can be toggled between daily and hourly, some health measures like air quality, pollen and UV, and sunrise/sunset information. A separate radar panel is available. No matter how the radar is opened, it provides extensive options for data to be displayed on the map. If you are in a storm prone area, be sure to check out the option to display the storm track.
The Weather Underground app helps users prioritize and access information by putting all of this different data on their own panels that can be dragged and dropped into a different order. Just hit the two horizontal lines in the upper right corner and hold to highlight panel. As it is moved, other panels will move out of the way.
Finally, the main menu gives users access to features like live weather radio stations, hurricane updates, and ski reports. For the hardcore weather nerds out there, you can also access Dr. Master’s blog as well as the detailed scientific discussions published by the weather service.
If you are a weather watcher, then a third-party weather app is a must have compared to the stock weather apps provided on smartphones. Even if you are not that interested in the nuances of the weather, one of these apps may be helpful for the notifications and warnings they can provide when bad weather is headed your way.
Do you have a favorite weather app that did not make our list? Let us know in the comments.