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The best weather apps for iPhone and iPad

Michael Simon | Jan. 28, 2015
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.

But what really sets Accuweather apart is its MinuteCast. Accessible on the main screen, it offers a forensic look at the next two hours, as it literally lets you know the exact moment you'll need an umbrella on your 30-minute walk. Gesture-based and extremely accurate, it blows away any other app I've used for live tracking.

My only real complaint is that it takes a second or two longer to load than I'd like. We've become spoiled with instant-on apps, and Accuweather takes a moment to refresh its screen each time it's launched, occasionally displaying incorrect information while it loads. And if I really want to quibble, the purple-and-blue color scheme can be difficult to read in spots. But overall, it's a fantastic weather app, and if you're one of the people who ditched it out of frustration after its initial re-launch, you'd be well served to give it another shot.

(A quick note: If you're adverse to spending any money on a weather app and looking to grab the free version of Accuweather, just be aware that the inclusion of banner ads upsets the integrity of the interface quite a bit. Since it's a scrolling app, they're not so easy to ignore, but the rest of the interface is intact, save for ten less forecast days.)

Runner-up: Dark Sky

Most of the time I check a weather app I want to know one thing: When is it going to rain? Dark Sky ($4) is the only app I've used that puts all of its efforts specifically into answering that exact question. It's so good at what it does, I rarely need to open it anymore — notifications dutifully keep me apprised of when the wet stuff is on its way — but when I do, I find myself using it differently than any other weather app. That is to say, I spend a considerable amount of time with it, even after it gives me the information I seek. 

Instead of a map, Dark Sky lets you literally scan the globe by swiping and pinching to find the most intense weather spots. Always visible by way of a transparent layer just beneath the screen, it puts a whole new spin on weather apps (literally) by turning the radar into the forecast; a 12-day span lets you follow storms and watch as they develop and dissipate, giving a greater understanding to just how hard it is to predict the weather. 

And while most every other weather apps focuses on a few locales of your choosing, Dark Sky encourages you to explore parts of the world you'll probably never visit. If there's no precipitation near you, the app will suggest an area where you're sure to find some, giving you an excuse to play with its stunning interface. Like a Wikipedia wormhole, once you start, you won't want to stop; Dark Sky sports one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing radars I've ever seen on an iOS app (or anywhere else for that matter), and it's as much of a joy to use as it is to behold.


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