Review: Check the Weather
Although there are a few standout hits, it seems that to-do lists and Twitter apps are overrunning the App Store. Weather apps have also grown into yet another one of these categories, despite Apple including a very basic forecast one in iOS. The early leader was the free offering from The Weather Channel, but other traditional weather outlets have followed. Now, David Smith & Cross Forward Consulting have created a new challenger—Check the Weather.
I have spent a bit of money on weather apps over the years, first buying Garmin’s (originally Digital Cyclone’s) My-Cast, then moving to Dark Sky. With the reformatted display of the built-in weather app on the iPhone 5, Siri, and Darky Sky, I had a pretty good combination, but could fall back on the much-negelected-by-its-developers My-Cast for severe weather watches and warnings. Each were good for some things, but nothing was a good weather overview.
Last week, Check the Weather was released for the reasonable price of $2. I was a bit skeptical of yet another weather app, but I gave it a try. After opening the app, most users will make a snap judgment about its interface—simple, and lots of use of the Idlewild, a boxy, wide font. Looking at initial reviews, it seems to be the big negative for a lot of people, but others really love it. It reminds me of typography and design from the 1960s, especially in the scope of what the “future” will bring. Moving on, the app features plain, flat graphics to indicate conditions. It’s a very clean, minimal look that may look a bit more at home on a Windows Phone-based device, but that’s not a bad thing.
The initial screen gives a lot of information right off the bat: current temperature and conditions, a graph of temperatures for the next 15 hours, the forecast for the next three days, and the sunrise and sunset times. At the top of the screen is the currently selected location, and tapping it brings up a list of favorite locations, the current one (based on Location Services), help, or settings. The settings are limited, only allowing changes to 24-hour time and temperatures in Celsius.
Swiping to the right shows a new panel to the left of the screen. This is the detailed 12-hour (16-hour on the iPhone 5) forecast, complete with conditions, temperature, and chance of precipitation. Swiping to the left shows a similar display, but instead is a detailed 10-day (13-day on the iPhone 5) forecast. Only the first seven days display the chance of precipitation. Finally, swiping up for American users reveals both a very basic radar and a rain forecast for the next hour, powered by the Dark Sky API. The radar is a standard map display, allowing you to move it around and zoom, but offers little else.
If there is severe weather in your area, the app will show any National Weather Service-issued watches or warnings on the initial display and in the very readable Pitch monospaced font. Unfortunately, this feature is also US-centric, but seemed to work well.
Some may say that Check the Weather is just a glorified rehashing of the built-in weather app with a few extra features, but it really is a good, fast, one-stop-shop for all sorts of weather information. The radar isn’t the most detailed, but is good for a quick check. Global users won’t have use of every feature, although the app does do a lot in terms of localizations (seven languages) and accessibility (VoiceOver). These unique features may give it a slight edge for someone who can utilize the special features.
Still, it is a handy app if you need a more detailed answer about what the weather is right now or will be in x number of hours. Because of this, it should serve most purposes most of the time. If you do want more information in terms of radar and satellite imagery, including animation, you may want to keep another app, like Dark Sky, on hand.
While some have complained about the typography and flat graphics, the app grew on us relatively early on. The only complaints we have are that the gorgeous IconFactory-designed icon doesn’t match the interface, the radar could use a bit more options (sometimes you aren’t sure when it was last updated), and the app is titled “Weather” on iOS’s Springboard. While this doesn’t sound like an issue, saying “Open Weather” on a device with Siri will result in the device asking you to choose between “Weather or Weather”—not good if you’re trying to launch it hands-free. Other than that, Check the Weather is a fairly complete, responsive, well-organized product.
Update: According to the app’s Twitter account, the ability to change fonts, animated maps, as well as some other tweaks are already on their way out the door.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
This is a very good 1.0 release and definitely worth the $2, despite a few things not feeling fully complete or perfected.
Pros: Loads quickly, simple interface, lots of information
Cons: Some features not available everywhere, same identifier for Siri as built-in Weather app