It wasn't very long ago that for a developer to make a successful weather app, it had to have the most information possible. This meant developers would compete to pack tons of graphs, maps, diagrams, written forecasts -- and even forums where people could talk about weather -- into busy, confusing apps that tried to cover it all. But what you ended up with were long, listlike menus when the only information you probably wanted was what the weather might be like for the weekend.
Don't get me wrong, the feature-packed weather apps have their place, particularly when you're monitoring hurricanes, tornadoes, and other potentially disastrous weather systems. But recently there has been a move toward minimalist design to bring you the weather at a glance, and some really elegant apps have sprung forth in the category.
As the weather starts to get warmer here in San Francisco, I decided to round up four of my favorites to help you get weather info at a glance while you continue on your busy (or relaxing) day.
Blue (99 cents) is great for a quick 36-hour outlook for local weather using an elegant interface, but it offers the least amount of weather information of this collection.
When you first launch Blue, it asks to access your location, and then you're presented with just the basics. You get the day and time, the temperature right now, a common weather icon that shows the current conditions (such as the sun obscured by a cloud icon denoting "partly cloudy"), and several colorful horizontal bars below.
The colored bars are Blue's main feature. By swiping up, you can scroll farther down and later into the day to see how the weather will change every hour, up to 36 hours in advance. The colors are important, too, showing you by gradations whether it will be warmer or cooler as the day goes on. I think it's a really neat setup for finding out how the weather will change during the day, and you can get all the information in less than 30 seconds.
Blue is obviously for the person who just wants to know the weather right now, so don't get this one if you're looking for extended forecasts.
Solar (free) is similar to Blue in the way the app is laid out, but it offers a little more weather information along with a brief forecast.
With Solar, you get the same weather info upon launch, but you swipe up to move forward in time to watch the weather change by the hour. Solar does a little more, though. A swipe down gives you a three-day forecast with temperatures, along with highs, lows, and weather icons. With a swipe to the left, you can add new locations by name or ZIP code to check all the same weather information in those cities. The app also lets you use a pinch gesture to show your saved cities in a grid so you can see temperatures in each or touch to select the city you want to view quickly.
So, Solar has a little more weather info and more locations than Blue, but it offers a similar experience.
Haze ($1.99) keeps with my theme of elegant and colorful weather apps, but it gives you a lot more information than the previous two apps.
With Haze you get a few more interface elements for finding the weather conditions around you. Across the top of the screen, there's a five-day forecast with temperatures and color-coding to show that the weather will be warmer or cooler the following day. At the bottom of the screen, you have buttons to switch among hours of sunshine, temperatures, and levels of precipitation. But in the middle part of the interface is where Haze gets particularly interesting.
When you touch the Temperatures button at the bottom, the temperature is displayed in the middle of the screen. If you touch the temperature number, five circles expand outward showing you the high and low for the day, the temperature it feels like, wind speed, and wind direction. When you switch to another screen, like hours of sunshine, the number in the middle shows how many hours of sunlight you'll get that day, taking into account the amount of cloudiness. Touching the number shows sunrise and sunset times, percentage of clouds, and more. Each of these actions is accompanied by smooth animations, contributing to the overall feeling of the app.
There's also an animation in the background of each screen that shows the current trend. On the temperature screen, for example, today's weather shows 70 degrees, but floating bars behind the temperature move downward, indicating that there is a cooling trend. If all of this seems a little complicated, don't worry; the app tells you what each element means when you get started.
Haze is a beautifully designed app, and it lets you dig a little deeper into your current conditions. Its one drawback is that you can't look at multiple cities, but for local weather at a glance, it works great.
Yahoo Weather (free) is an app I reviewed recently, and -- before looking at it -- figured it would be a run-of-the-mill, overly complicated weather app like I described above. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Yahoo Weather starts off with a very minimal interface, but lets you drill down for more information if you want it. With images from Flickr, this app shows you a photo from your area as the background that matches your location, time of day, and current weather conditions. The city is indicated at the top along with the time, and at the bottom you can see a weather icon, low and high temperature for the day, and the current temperature. Basically, the default screen shows you the weather at a glance when that's all you need.
If you swipe up you'll start to get more information. You can look at the forecast for each hour of the day, or below that, the five-day outlook. Scroll a bit farther and you can view a map of today's radar. Touch the map and you get a larger view where you can touch buttons for interactive radar, satellite, heat, and wind maps. You also can read written forecasts for the day, check precipitation throughout the day, monitor wind speeds and directions, and see sunrise and sunset times. While there's a lot of information here, it's presented in a way that keeps it simple, making it easy to move around the app.
Part of the fun with Yahoo Weather is seeing which photograph will be displayed for your current conditions, but all are extremely good shots. Even if the interface weren't laid out well (it is), the app always looks great.
With multiple-city support, great-looking photos, and a well-designed interface that lets you see as much or as little weather information as you want, Yahoo Weather is surprisingly elegant and useful.