Of all the different kinds of apps that I regularly use on my iPhone, I probably spend the least amount of time with weather ones. That's not to say I don't like them, quite the contrary: I've downloaded so many of them over the years, I could probably go a year without needing to open the same one twice. But no matter which one I'm using, my time with it is relatively brief — I check the temperature, maybe scan the forecast, and close.
Therein lies the beauty of a great weather app. Unlike note-takers or Twitter clients, weather apps aren't designed to be used for any substantial length of time. Unless you're obsessed with all things meteorological or happen to enjoy poring over a month's worth of barometric readings, the data is actually secondary to the experience. More than any other category in the App Store, there's quite a bit of overlap among weather apps, but while they all pretty much do the same thing, the interfaces and experiences vary widely.
That's why picking the best one is so difficult. With virtually every other task I need to do on my iPhone, I have a clear favorite. Tweetbot for Twitter. Daedalus Touch for writing. Fantastical 2 for day planning. But weather apps are far more subjective; on my own device I cycle through a couple dozen apps on a relatively regular basis — and that's before I started testing them for this article.
So, to help narrow things down, I set some criteria. First and foremost, current conditions have to be accessible at a glance. More often than not I'm popping into a weather app to see what's going on right now, so I don't want to spend any time searching for the pertinent information. An iPad companion helped but wasn't necessary, but they did have to offer a five-day forecast, along with at least some kind of detailed information, such as radar, precipitation or wind speed. And above all, they had to be accurate.
Winner: Accuweather Platinum
This wasn't an easy decision — and some of you will undoubtedly disagree with me. Accuweather Platinum ($4) set off an avalanche of criticism when it got an extreme iOS 7 makeover, but a year later it's all the better for it. A quick scan of its reviews will show you that it still has its detractors, but Accuweather has continuously tweaked and refined its vision to deliver an app that's both minimal and meticulous, drawing an utterly exhaustive picture of the sky above you.
There's a ton of information crammed into the app's modular interface, but none of it gets in the way of the current temperature and conditions, clearly displayed against an animated representation of what's going on outside your window. Any warnings or advisories are positioned at the top of the screen, but scroll a bit down and you'll find a wealth of customizable weather stats, from commonplace figures for visibility, pressure and dew point to more unique features like hourly precipitation forecasts to the phase of the moon. Clicking on most segments expands them to show a greater level of information, including a very useful plain language description of the forecast.
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