App of the Week: Ranking Nine Popular Weather Apps

Categories: Tech, Weather

weather-cantore.jpg
Even weather Hercules Jim Cantore could use some app help now and then.
My name is Jeff, and I'm a weather nerd. When I was very young, my father, an avid outdoorsman, would flip on the old-school weather channel on early cable television that consisted of nothing more than the current Houston/Galveston radar and the NOAA weather radio station playing in the background. From the moment I saw that big blue screen in the pre-dawn hours before fishing trips, I was hooked.

Most of my friends know that, when hurricane season begins (June 1 if you want to put it on your calendar), I'm a pretty good choice if you have questions and don't know an actual meteorologist. In short, I have all the weather model online Web sites bookmarked in their own folder. Like I said, I'm a nerd.

As technology provides us with more and more access to all kinds of technical data, it makes sense that smartphone technology should start serving up some pretty nice weather apps. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the best apps are made for iPhone, with one notable exception, but after the jump, I rank nine popular weather apps (not counting the crappy excuse for an app that comes with your iPhone) so you can know what to use when the weather turns nasty (or for when we get the first drop of rain in what seems like a century).

9. AccuWeather
Platforms: iPhone
Web site: App Info
Cost: Free
It's never a good sign when an app won't work until you agree to terms and conditions or that it automatically chooses New York and London for your default locations without asking. AccuWeather is a respected weather service that has put out a rather bland app. The maps are average and the layout is not nearly as nice as some of the others on this list. It does have a forecast that goes out 14 days -- well beyond any of the others -- and it lists sunrise/sunset times. It also has a "Lifestyles" section that lets you know how the weather is for, say, walking your dog. It's a solid app, but not spectacular.

weather-outside.jpg
Outside offers a different look at the weather.
8. Weather HD
Platforms: iPhone
Web site: App Info
Cost: $0.99
Weather HD has been described as beautiful and elegant and it most definitely is. In fact, it is one of the most unique  and attractive designs I've ever seen on an app. The backgrounds are animated with beautiful outdoor scenes and each change -- clicking the forecast button, for example -- triggers a smooth, almost film-like transition. If you want robust features, this app falls short, but if you want a breathtakingly unique look at the weather, this is it.

7. The Weather
Platforms: iPhone
Web site: App Info
Cost: $0.99
I've read a number of good things about this simply titled app, and it does have quite a few things going for it. Its "widgets" can be organized in virtually any way you like and the interface is well designed. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel particularly intuitive and that causes it to fall somewhat short of the others. Maybe the most useful aspect of the app is the wide range of weather stations that can be chosen from a list. Most apps rely simply on a ZIP code, but this one is much more specific. It also utilizes WeatherUnderground information and all weather nerds are a big fan of that organization. Overall, a good, solid choice once you get used to using it.

6. Weather Radar
Platforms: iPhone
Web site: App Info
Cost: $1.99
Over the past few months, during what has been one of the worst droughts in Texas history, my girlfriend and I, both fans of a good rainstorm, have been fond of saying, "Check the doppler" whenever it is cloudy or we hear wind outside just in case. Up until now, I've mostly grabbed the phone and checked the number one app on this list, but that has changed thanks to Weather Radar. Imagine a Google world map overlaid with radar and cloud cover and that's what this app provides. It's simple and a bit clunky -- even with wi-fi, the loads were a bit on the slow side -- but it is the most comprehensive radar out there and it covers the entire globe.



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3 comments
H_e_x
H_e_x

I'm looking at the weather channel app for android right now and it has four out of five stars, so it's not poorly rated.It does have bugs though. Older versions were awesome, bug the newer versions don't always work. Download an earlier version instead.

Jeff
Jeff

The latest version on the Android app site had 1 1/2 stars. I think it probably has some bugs, but I couldn't test it since I don't have a Droid, but thanks for the heads up.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oh, I think I understand the low score now. I was looking at the market score, not the app site.I had an original Droid and at first it was great. They need to change it because it is leggy and buggy. Until they do I'm fine with the app that came with my phone.

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