I’ve been on a crusade this past week to find the best solution for my weather dilemma. I’ve been looking for something functional, that would tell me about the changes in condition, but most importantly, an app that was accurate. Plus, it shouldn’t be cluttered with ads, with a design that looks like it was made in the early ’90’s, as most weather web apps are. I’ve had many false starts in my search; I heard Dark Sky, loved it, and found out it wasn’t available for my country.
A few days later, Forecast.io was announced. It is a web application created by the same guys who brought Dark Sky to iOS, and it offers worldwide coverage and a few more tricks up its sleeve. Suddenly, most of my problems were solved like magic.
A design to please all users.
Weather apps commonly fall into two categories: the bare minimum info you need, or a cluttered mess with far too much information. Often they try their best to offer a fresh design, yet they rely on the same forecasting; usually when one app fails to predict the weather properly, they all do. Forecast.io brings the best of both worlds: a pleasing, minimal interface, along with tools to help you dig deeper into the weather data if you so wish. Plus, it has it’s own full set of weather data, so its forecasts should be more unique.
Forecast picks your current location and pins it on a global map. Even though the precipitation map looks fantastic, it is not so easy to navigate, through, if you want to check the weather around the world. Dragging the pin around won’t spin the globe, so if you’re in the US and wants to check Australia, you’ll need to resort to the search.
The globe’s still useful, though, as it shows radar animations, so you can see the development of storm systems world-wide. You can even see them out transforming and moving around the globe. You can zoom the map according to Forecast’s data; for example, in Brazil it allows me to view the formations up to the region, and if you’re in the US, you’re able to visualize it locally.
As you may expect, the main screen also shows the current weather and the last updated forecast up to hourly, daily and weekly prediction. Scrolling down will show the forecast for the whole week, with a written condition and the temperature range.
For the weather geeks, every time you find a “+” button it means “more information”. For example, the one besides the current weather will show the wind speed and direction, humidity, visibility and pressure. A cool thing is that if you set it to Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, it uses kilometers per hour to measure the wind speed, while the latter uses miles per hour.
Travel through time
One of the main features of Forecast is the Time Machine. This feature allows you to slide through the day and check all the weather changes, from the past and for the future. You’ll find navigation arrows to change the day and a summary of the chosen date, below you have the slider, which already displays the condition, hour and temperature. At the bottom you’ll find further information.
A quirky curiosity is that the way Forecast manipulates the formations to show not only the future yet also the past, allows you to check some really unusual dates. You should try looking for your day of birth in your hometown, just for fun.
Ok, but how well it works?
I don’t expect Forecast to be correct every time, but it is honest about its performance. If you check the image below, you can have an idea of how precise its predictions are. Black colors areas that suffer of quality control, blue areas are those covered with low-resolution data, so they may not accurately convey local weather, red and green areas have high-resolution, quality-controlled sources, providing better forecast up to the local level.
As I live in a blue zone, even the current condition struggles to display the right thing. Actually, the first day I’ve used Forecast it has shown the wrong report for the entire day, as it diagnosed light rain for most of a day where not a single rain drop fell. By the days after, though, Forecast has shown itself more accurate than the other weather apps I currently use.
Its performance in my neighborhood makes me pretty sure of its capability of forecasting hourly on the green zones of its radar, as Dark Sky does. Maybe this is the major point of Forecast: it opens the Dark Sky experience, partially, for everyone and also lights the flame that it will be arriving at more countries soon, as the UK recently became supported.
Carry it on your phone
Probably the coolest thing about Forecast is that if you try to view it from your phone, they’ll ask you to save it as an app. After you do it, welcome to the weather app you’ve asked for your phone. Ok, maybe not. Forecast is not the coolest guy to open and sometimes refreshes up to three times before showing the main screen. But overall, it’s incredibly smooth for a web app on a smartphone.
As you may predict yourself, some options from the native web app are missing in its phone counterpart, mainly the Time Machine, yet it is announced to be coming soon. The amount of information displayed for non-current weather is reduced and, obviously, you don’t have your locations synced. However, the mobile app actually has a better way to visualize the map, as it gives you full control of its navigation, allowing you to freeze at any given hour and adjust as you wish.
Bring your umbrella
Forecast is not only beautiful, but also fully functional with great features given at the right amount. It allows everyone to use one of the best forecasting tools, one only folks located in the US formerly had the privilege to own. I can finally settle down with a great way to check the weather, whether I’m on my phone, at work or home.