I’m not obsessed with weather apps as much as I am with text editors. Throughout 2012, several developers came out with their own takes on presenting weather data in beautiful interfaces with custom designs; however, when it comes to weather, in spite of my non-obsession, I demand efficiency. Most of the time, many of the “great-looking” weather apps only focus on capturing the user’s attention with pixels, whereas weather software should, in my opinion, pay attention to data quality and information density more than anything else.
For the past week I’ve been using Check the Weather by David Smith, and, interestingly enough, I haven’t gone back to Apple’s Weather app yet. Like I said, I’m not obsessed with weather apps for iOS, but I like to try a new one every once in a while. In the past months I’ve always ended up going back to Apple’s app after a few hours – so there must be something Check the Weather is doing well.
I don’t want advanced data that I don’t understand from a weather app. To grasp the reason why I’m liking Check the Weather, I made a list of the features I need from a weather app:
- What’s the weather like today
- What’s the weather going to be like later today
- What’s the temperature going to be like today
- When is the sun rising (I live in Italy, work on a US timezone, so I see the sunrise every morning)
- What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow
- What’s the weather going to be like this week
With these few “requirements”, I can get a pretty clear overview of weather conditions and temperatures. Check the Weather is remarkably good at this because it presents many data points without cluttering the interface.
Check the Weather is a dashboard for weather conditions. At the top, there’s a bar that indicates your current location and, through a subtle animation, when the app is checking for updated data. Immediately below this bar, you’ll find the current temperature and weather conditions for your location. And then, underneath conditions, one my favorite features of the app: a graph of temperature for the next 12/15 hours. It’s a simple and effective way to visualize temperature changes (like how it dramatically drops between 6 and 8 PM).
Continuing with the main screen, the bottom part is dedicated to showing weather conditions and low/high temperature forecasts for the next three days and sunrise/sunset times. I particularly appreciate the sunrise functionality, as I mentioned above, and I find it somewhat curious that several developers decide not to include it. I also found it accurate for my location (Viterbo, Italy), and I only noticed a few days ago that moon phase is included in this section as well.
One thing that’s immediately distinctive about Check the Weather is its design. Different from any other weather app I’ve tried, Check the Weather makes extensive use of Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ font Idlewild for all its weather forecasts. While I wasn’t sure about this choice at first, within a few days I’ve come to appreciate the unique look of Check the Weather – this app is not yet another Clear clone. Check the Weather is different (a weather app with a very specific font and focused on data rather than prettiness isn’t something you see every day), and I like it. I can see, though, why this is also a very bold (no pun intended) move on Smith’s side: sometimes, people just want pretty pixels heavy on graphics and animations.
Check the Weather is unique in how it approaches the trend of placing additional information in a panel on the side. The app, in fact, uses two panels to display hourly forecasts and extended forecasts for the next 12 days. Hourly forecasts are nicely implemented, as “dark hours” are embedded between sunset and sunrise – as they should be. I don’t typically use extended forecasts (I think predicting 10 days in advance is a bit too much), but I like how they’re presented nevertheless.
As an Italian who reviews weather apps, the typical dreaded moment arrives when it’s time to talk about data. Simply put: if you live in the US you’ll have more features. While Check the Weather tries to be “global” with accurate data by HAMweather, there are several functionalities that are US-only, such as hazardous weather alerts from the National Weather Service, a doppler radar precipitation map, and integration with Dark Sky for minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts. I haven’t been able to test this, but David told me that Dark Sky API data is available in the precipitation view (swipe up from main screen). I believe Check the Weather is the first app to integrate with the recently announced Dark Sky API, and, even though it doesn’t support push notifications yet, it is a huge plus for US customers. As an Italian, all I can say is that weather data and forecasts were accurate and in line with Yahoo weather (the provider Apple uses).
One thing I’ve noticed about Check the Weather: it is localized in 7 languages (including Italian), and it is fully VoiceOver-enabled.
Check the Weather is refreshingly different. It doesn’t look like any other weather app I’ve tried, and it leverages its uniqueness to provide weather data in a variety of ways that I find useful and intuitive. What I like most about Check the Weather is that it brings me the information I need without confusing me with custom menus or complicated interface designs. At this point, I only hope David will find a way to add more international weather providers and release an iPad version of the app.
Check the Weather is available at $2.99 on the App Store.