Mobile weather-checking goes 3D with Minutely for iPhone

The slick new app raises the bar with 3D radar maps and crowd-sourced weather reporting. Best of all, it's free!

Minutely's slick dashboard packs in a lot of weather data.
Minutely's slick dashboard packs in a lot of weather data. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Apple's stock Weather app is so lame. I mean, all it does is report the local temperature and forecast. Bo-ring!

That's why third-party app developers continue to find new and interesting ways to sling weather data. There's Dark Sky , which specializes in next-hour forecasts; Climate Clock , which combines weather data with an actual clock; and The Weather Channel , which offers a little of everything.

Now comes Ourcast's Minutely for iPhone, which brings a few fresh features to the mobile-weather experience and wraps them in a fun, attractive package.

The app packs a lot onto its primary screen: current temp (with daily high/low), a two-day forecast, a two-hour rain forecast, and an animated current-condition icon.

You can tap any of these four sections to access additional information or perform certain tasks. Tap the current-temp box, for example, and you'll get a detailed full-day forecast. Tap the two-day forecast box for an additional 7 days' worth of data. And when you tap the current-condition icon, you can quickly report the current conditions -- thereby contributing to Minutely's crowd-sourced weather.

If you swipe right from this main screen, you land at a more detailed reporting tool, where you can not only choose the outdoor conditions, but also add a message, snap a photo, and/or share your report on Facebook or Twitter.

But the real fun happens when you swipe left, where Minutely reveals a local map overlaid with radar data. A slider animates the radar map as you drag it, effectively showing what'll be over your head for the next 2 hours. And if you tap the 3D icon, the map shifts to an isometric view that shows a really slick 3D rendering of the cloud coverage. You can zoom and rotate the view, making for some pretty cool interactivity with live data.

Minutely's 3D maps offer a neat way to look at the current conditions.
Minutely's 3D maps offer a neat way to look at the current conditions. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

However, on my iPhone 4S, the 3D map was slow to render, and zooming was oversensitive and hard to control. But I loved seeing the locations of nearby weather stations (represented by little robot icons) and other users' weather reports.

Minutely doesn't do a great job handling multiple locations. Its search feature isn't dynamic (i.e., it doesn't pull up matching city names as you type), and it requires several taps to switch between the city you want to view.

That gripe aside, this is a sweet little weather app with some cool features, and you can't beat the price: It's free.

Found a weather app you like better? Tell me about it in the comments.

 

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