Weather apps provide us with one of the most basic but essential tasks, giving us a forecast to plan out our days and weeks. Depending on which weather app you choose to download, you may also get additional information like monthly forecasts, humidity levels and precipitation totals.
However, any third-party weather app -- as in, those that don't come built-in to your phone -- poses a risk, since they operate using location data, and sometimes ask for permissions they don't actually need. A number of weather apps, including those from The Weather Channel, AccuWeather and WeatherBug, have come under fire or faced lawsuits for selling location data to advertisers.
The built-in Weather app on your iPhone (which uses data from The Weather Channel) or Google Weather app on your Android may not be perfect, but if you're already in those device ecosystems, they have your current location information anyway. If you want to be even safer, check the weather manually in your internet browser or another device.
Read more: Best iPhone apps of 2020
One of the top weather apps for both iOS and Android, The Weather Channel app offers local hourly, daily and weekly forecasts, as well as a "Feels like" feature to let you know what to prepare for when leaving the house. Owned by IBM, the app also offers real-time rain alerts with radar, and the ability to track seasonal allergies, flu risk and COVID-19 cases. The app is free to download, but ads are more apparent here than on some of the others. You can remove them by upgrading to premium for $10 per year or $1 per month.
Weather Underground offers hyper-local forecasts for your neighborhood, along with interactive radar, satellite maps and severe weather alerts. On the homepage, you'll see the current temperature, what it actually feels like, the daily high and low and precipitation and wind information, along with a radar map. If you tap "more," you'll find information on humidity, dew point, visibility, UV index and flu outbreaks. Scroll down to find hourly and weekly forecasts, the air quality index, sunrise and sunset times, and tabs that take you to news stories and weather forecast videos.
Like The Weather Channel, Weather Underground is also owned by IBM. The app is free, but you can upgrade to a premium ad-free version for $20 per year or $4 per month, which also includes detailed visual forecasts up to 15 days out.
When you open AccuWeather, you'll see a snapshot of the day's weather, in terms of current conditions, the "RealFeel" temperature in the sun or shade, the UV index and the wind speed, as well as a look ahead to the next day. You also have the option to select if you want the weather application to tell you to bring a jacket or umbrella. Keep scrolling and you'll see the different allergy levels (like tree, grass and ragweed pollen) broken down for the day. At the top, you'll have the option to check hourly and daily temperatures, along with a radar map. There's also a news tab where you can watch short news videos.
You can upgrade the app for a one-time $4 fee to remove ads and get an additional 10 days of forecasts.
One of the top paid weather apps in the Play Store, the $10 RadarScope app is aimed at more serious weather enthusiasts and meteorologists. It gives you access to NEXRAD Level 3 and Super-Resolution radar data, along with tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flood and special marine warnings. If you're really into tracking weather patterns, this is the app for you.
If you upgrade to a Pro Tier 1 subscription ($10 per year), you'll access real-time, nongridded lightning data, extended radar loops and inspector tools to better investigate radar imagery. A Pro Tier 2 subscription ($15 per month or $100 per year) will give you that as well, plus archived radar data from the past 30 days, tools that help you predict where there could be a tornado, hail size and probably information and local storm reports from the National Weather Service.
In terms of privacy, RadarScope operates under the policy laid out by parent company DTN. The company says it does not sell information to third parties -- which makes sense, since it's an app you pay for. It does use Google Analytics and Eloqua web monitoring, as well as AdRoll for advertising, but you can opt out of all of them.
Dark Sky has a simple interface: Its home page shows the temperature and what temperature it feels like, and gives a listed forecast for the rest of the day or night. Scroll down to find a forecast for the rest of the week, and to access weather and forecasts in your area from the past or future.
Dark Sky differentiates itself with an interactive world map feature that lets you zoom in and out of various countries, states and cities to track radar, forecasts and precipitation. You can report weather for your location to the app as well.
Dark Sky is free on Android and $4 on iOS, but you can upgrade to premium for $3 per year to get down-to-the-minute forecasts, rain notifications, severe weather alerts and other custom notifications, and widgets for your home screen along with OS app and complications for your smart watch.
In March, Dark Sky was acquired by Apple. As such, the Android app will be shut down on July 1, and users will be refunded, according to Apple. Other privacy changes may be coming as well.
Carrot Weather approaches the weather report in a more fun, lighthearted way. The home page has some nice artwork and a sharp welcome message. One nice day in March under the temperature, feels like temperature, precipitation and wind information, said, "It's springtime, meatbag! You can thank me for taking winter out behind the toolshed later." When I opened the app again, it said, "Ah, spring -- that time of year when the weather finally gets nice again, but you still say inside playing video games." You can change the app's "personality" in the settings, to friendly, snarky, homicidal or overkill (includes profanity), as well as its politics.
The app is relatively simple compared to some of the others: Its homepage gives you the current temperature, an hourly forecast and a weekly forecast. There's a tab for weather alert notifications as well. There's also a built-in geography game you can play. If you need a hint, you have to watch an ad.
Carrot Weather free to download, or you can upgrade to the Premium Club for $1 per month or $4 per year to remove ads, add widgets to your screen, and view weather reports from up to 70 years ago.