One of the first apps many people seek out on their new device is a good weather app. Sometimes the built-in app is fine, but often there are third-party apps that offer more features, better accuracy, and more customizability. Apple’s built-in weather app on the Watch is good, but since my main iPhone app is Yahoo! Weather, I thought I would try out a few apps to see if I could find the weather app for the Watch.
- Apple’s Built-in Weather App
- Yahoo! Weather
- The Weather Channel
- The Weather Network
- Living Earth
- Weather Underground
Note: Dark Sky is not available in Canada, so it is not part of my review.
First I want to take a look at Glances, as they are the quickest way to access the weather. Until native apps arrive on the Watch with watchOS 2 later this year, I’ll be using Glances to check the weather rather than opening actual apps.
Apple’s glance isn’t too bad. It has a basic icon displaying the current conditions, the current temperature with a nice large number, the location it is showing weather for, a short text description of the conditions and the high and low for the day. This is a perfectly useful glance and it updates very quickly. It does not display the “feels like” temperature, which can be very important in Canada, especially in the winter when wind chill can really make it feel much colder. It also doesn’t show probability of precipitation. Everything is left-aligned and nicely designed, but I think there is room for improvement here.
The Yahoo! glance is slightly more minimal than Apple’s. At first, I thought they were wasting the space at the top of the screen by leaving it blank. Today I went back to the glance and it had a little animated cloud:
I’m not sure why it wasn’t showing previously, but it’s there now. The current temperature is nice and big and it also displays “feels like” temperature, probability of precipitation and the wind. It does not have textual description of the conditions and I find the little icon doesn’t really give you the best indication. I also found the little t-shirt icon very confusing. At first I thought maybe it meant that it was “t-shirt weather,” but it remained even when the temperature dipped several degrees to 5°C – certainly not t-shirt weather! Now that I know what it is, it’s a useful bit of information, but I still think the icon is out of place. The water drop icon representing PoP is great and the data is fairly accurate. Wind can definitely make a difference in how you experience the weather, and living by the ocean means that a beautifully sunny day can feel a lot cooler when the wind is blowing at 25kph. I’m not sure this is terribly useful for everyone in all climates, but it’s a nice touch. However, I would drop it for high/low if I could customize this glance.
Just like Yahoo!’s glance, AccuWeather’s changed from the first time I made these screenshots to now. The first one above features a line of text describing the weather – “Rain for at least 120min,” which I really like. The circular temperature/weather representation is confusing and I don’t like it at all. The current temperature is a good size and I love the inclusion of high/low, but other than that it is a sparse glance.
However, I just took another screenshot of the glance and now it looks like this:
We now have a similar setup to other apps, with an icon and one word representing the conditions rather than a longer line of text. The current temperature is larger than before. Accuweather calls its “feels like” temperature “RealFeel” and it gets prominent placement. Below the main section we have the high/low, which is great. Under that, it looks a lot like the Yahoo! glance with three small icons. Two of them represent wind and PoP, like Yahoo!’s, but the third tells you when the sun is going to set. At first I thought this glance was too basic, but it is now one of the more fully-featured glances in the pack.
The Weather Channel
This glance is the most basic of the group, and because of that I definitely won’t be using it. The other glances have proven that there is more than enough room to add some useful details. This glance contains only the current temperature, a very short description of the conditions, and a large icon representing those conditions. It looks nice (and right now there is a cloud with a cute little cloud), but it’s just not enough information.
The Weather Network
This glance is middle of the road. Like The Weather Channel, it offers the temperature and an icon for the current conditions. It adds the location, a “Feels like” line and a textual representation of the conditions. In this case, “Rain showers.” This is more information than TWC, but less information than every other glance, and it does not offer anything in the way of a forecast. There is a lot of empty space that could have been used. On one hand, it’s just a glance, so some may say the simpler the better, but when the other apps feature way more information without feeling cluttered, I think there is room for improvement.
Living Earth is a cool iPhone app – it shows a representation of where you are on the globe, with lighting effects. The glance includes the same, along with current temp (which isn’t extremely large, but it’s not too bad), high/low, PoP and location. It doesn’t include wind, feels like, or current conditions. It’s got the eye candy and a decent amount of info, but I don’t like that the vast majority of the screen is taken up the graphic of the Earth. I know that’s the whole point of the app, and some will really enjoy that aspect, but I feel like it’s wasted space.
Wunderground is a nice glance. It features the current temperature in a different colour, which makes it stand out – something the other glances don’t do. It has a small conditions icon, the high/low, and the forecast for the next three hours. It also has the date, time and location, which I think is useless. Most, if not all Apple Watch faces have the time. Many have a complication that can be set for the date. I get that some of the glances show the location because you can obviously have different locations in you weather app, but to have the location along with the date and time doesn’t make sense to me. This is more wasted space. Even if they just removed those elements, spaced things out more, and made the icon and temps a bit larger, I think they’d have a much-improved glance. It’s the only glance that features a look ahead at the forecast, so I really hope they continue to work on the glance, as it has potential.
Until native apps arrive, I don’t think I’ll be spending much time in weather apps on the watch. They take too long to load and too long to update with current information. One of my goals with the watch is to spend less time interacting with it and have it mainly for notifications and quick interactions. Scrolling through weather information is not something I want to do on my wrist. If I can get the current conditions and maybe a short forecast or a high/low inside a glance, that’s all I need. If I really want detailed weather info, I’ll pull out my phone. That said, here’s a look at the companion apps to the glances reviewed above:
The Apple weather app is incredibly simple – it is just one screen, and if you didn’t start turning the digital crown, you’d never know it continued below with a ten-day forecast. That is something I’ve noticed throughout watchOS – there are often small circles at the bottom of the screen indicating there is another “page” to the right or left, but there is often nothing indicating there is more information or “pages” below if you scroll with the digital crown or swipe down.
I like the circular interface – at a glance you can see what the general conditions will be throughout the day, and the current temp is prominently displayed in the centre. You can swipe left/right on the circle to get pop and temperature. You can also switch to these views via a force touch.
Again, there is some wasted space from the displaying of the time, but with this layout anything else might look out of place in that space. The ten day forecast shows a conditions icon and the high/low for each day. This is an efficient display. Interestingly, at the end of the ten days there is a logo indicating the weather info comes from The Weather Channel.
Force Touch in this app changes the circular views from forecast, temperature and pop.
Unfortunately, Yahoo!’s app keeps giving me this error:
Opening the app on my iPhone usually gets rid of it, but sometimes it persists. Eventually I can usually get the watch app to work, but it’s pretty annoying to have this happen all the time, especially after a month of usage.
Once the app actually loads, it’s a fairly simple layout. You scroll down for the forecast for the next 24 hours, and you swipe left to change between your locations. First up is the current temperature with high/low and the location and time. The next screen down is the pop, wind speed, and a cute little animation of the sun’s current location, ending with sunrise and sunset times. Scrolling down brings the basic forecast (with one icon), temperature, and high/low for the next 24h, chunked into afternoon / evening / night / morning sections.
I like this app. When I’m looking at weather on my watch, what I’m really looking for is current information first and foremost, and then the next 24h. I don’t see myself looking up weather for the next seven days on my watch all the time, so I like Yahoo!’s focus here. The information isn’t as quick to access as Apple’s since you have to scroll down versus Apple’s circular presentation, but you get the temperature and forecast in one view, along with high/low whereas with Apple’s app you have to swipe or force touch to get that info.
Force Touch in this app brings up an option to refresh.
AccuWeather’s app offers the least amount of information. It consists of one-and-a-half screens. It displays the AccuWeather logo, the time, location, large forecast icon and temperature, one-word forecast description, RealFeel, MinuteCast, and then an overview that shows the high/low, windspeed, pop, and sunrise or sunset time plus icons. The layout is a big awkward. As you can see from the screenshot below, the MinuteCast says “Rain for at least 120min,” but the “min” is cut off and placed on the next line. While I actually like that this gives you an indication that you are supposed to scroll down, I feel this looks a bit clunky.
The MinuteCast information is a bit odd as well because the address shown in the screenshot is many kilometres from where I was when I took the screenshot, and I don’t see any options to change that.
The layout could easily be improved by moving everything up to a bit so that there is no blank space about the AccuWeather logo. It looks like the time is on its own “line,” and because of that, the MinuteCast sentence is getting cut off at the bottom.
MinuteCast is nice, though not very accurate for my location. I like having RealFeel, as humidity and windchill make a big difference where I live. Overall, I like the amount of information you get from the app, but it is disappointing that it is so poorly laid out and that it is limited to one day’s forecast.
This app does not support Force Touch.
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel app, like its glance, is quite basic. The main screen, called “Right Now” has the time, a small conditions icon, text describing the conditions, and the current temperature. It then has what I assume is high/low, though in the example below you can see that one of the numbers is “–” instead of an actual number. The only other information on the first screen is pop. You swipe between screens in this app, and there is no scrolling down.
The second screen is a bit unique amongst these set of apps. It is mis-titled “hourly” and features a look ahead at the next 9 hours or thereabouts. In this example, it shows 6pm, 9pm and 12am. It has a line graph of the temperature and three bar graphs representing pop. The third screen is a live radar map.
The focus on pop isn’t a terrible idea, but the app does feel sparse. The inclusion of the radar is nice eye candy, but I don’t find it overly useful, and it takes some time to load. I don’t mind the second screen, but I feel that the first screen could have more information. It feels sparse.
This app does not support Force Touch.
The Weather Network
Like the Yahoo! app, I often get an error message when opening The Weather Network’s app. Force touching and hitting refresh usually fixes it. At this point, I feel these errors have more to do with WatchKit and the OS than the apps themselves. I think watchOS 2 will fix a lot of these issues.
TWN’s app is pretty basic. Like AccuWeather, it only has two screens. You scroll down to access the second one. Swiping takes you to your other locations, as set in the iPhone app. This app has something else in common with AccuWeather – the time is on its own “line” and there is a gap above the rest of the info. In fact, the whole first screen is almost identical to AccuWeather – large icon and number for current conditions, a “Feels like” section, one word to describe the conditions, and TWN’s own version of MinuteCast – in this case rain starting at 4:30pm and stopping at 5:20pm. The second screen details wind, humidity, pressure, visibility, ceiling, sunrise, sunset, and, for some reason, yesterday’s high and low.
This is the first app to display pressure, visibility and ceiling, though those bits of information aren’t really useful to a lot of folks, so it’s not necessarily a value-add. I like that this app essentially has the same info as AccuWeather, but fits it much better on the first screen, with nothing getting cut off. I do wish they’d push everything up a bit and get rid of that gap to the left of the time. Overall, this is a good set of information presented pretty well. However, it offers little more than most glances, with no future forecast information listed, so its utility is limited.
Force touching in this app brings up an option to refresh.
Living Earth is a really cool iPhone app – it shows a “live” view of the Earth. The watch app is pretty cool, too. It approaches things a little differently than most of apps in this review. It is divided into three main views, each of which are tappable to bring up more information. Let’s take a look at the three main views:
The first screen offers current conditions plus a snapshot of the next several days. It includes location, time, a small icon, current temperature, high/low, and pop.
The second screen focuses on the current conditions and adds Living Earth’s trademark view of the Earth. The third view currently displays information about a tropical depression named Halola. Each of these screens contain additional information.
The first screen can be scrolled, giving you a 9-day forecast:
As you can see, the data appears to come from Weather Underground. For each day, the app displays an icon, pop, and high/low. Not bad. Tapping on any of these days brings up an hourly forecast for that day:
Tapping the second screen takes you to a screen with detailed information about the current day:
Tapping the third screen gives you a bit more information about the weather event:
This app has a lot of information. It is the only one in this list that has information on major weather events. It has a nice design, and there isn’t a lot of wasted space, though perhaps the Earth view with current conditions and the weather event information could be on the same screen. The downside to this app is that it wasn’t immediately clear that you could tap to get more detail. There is so much information on the screen that my brain immediately thought that was it – no need to tap since there’s so much there already.
The iPhone app is one of my favourite weather apps, purely for design and eye candy reasons. The watch app is quite good as well, and now that I know where to swipe and where to tap, I enjoy the amount of information that can be gleamed here.
This app does not support Force Touch.
Weather Underground is another “one column” app that you scroll through, though it does have three tappable areas that give you different information and is the only app to offer user submissions. The main screen has the time and location at the top, and then inside a large circle it features a weather icon, high/low, and the current temperature.
A Force Touch on this screen gives you options to quickly jump to the Hourly and 10-Day forecasts, or to your list of Locations.
Scrolling down to the next screen brings the user to the “Next 24 Hours,” which displays a line graph of the temperature and pop.
The third screen is a radar. This app and The Weather Channel are the only ones that feature a radar, and I’m still not sold on its utility. This one is animated and larger than TWC’s, but I would rather just see that information represented in numbers, icons, and text.
At the very bottom, you are given two button – Hourly Forecast and 10-Day Forecast.
In this example, the hourly forecast is given for the current hour and 16 hours out. For each hour, the app displays a weather icon, the temperature, text describing the conditions, and the pop.
The 10-Day Forecast displays a weather icon, the high/low, and the pop.
I like the 16h and 10-Day forecasts, but I don’t like the main screen. The circle doesn’t really add much design-wise and the space isn’t used very effectively. There isn’t even pop on the main screen. The other screens fare much better, but for me, if the main screen isn’t as useful as those of the competitors, I won’t choose it as my main, or even backup, weather app.
Weather Underground does have one unique feature. On the main screen, outside of the useless circle, there is a plus sign. Tapping that brings you to the Crowd Report screen where you can submit weather information. You can set the conditions (clear, mostly clear, partly cloudy, mostly cloudy, overcast) and tap toggles for rain and/or snow.
This data is sent to WU and this is part of the vast network of weather data that WU and other apps and companies use to populate their apps and websites. I find it interesting that WU has this feature, yet their own watch app does not include any information on up-to-the-minute conditions like AccuWeather’s MinuteCast. It’s also interesting to note that Living Earth credits WU for weather data, yet that app includes much more detailed information than Weather Underground’s own app.
A Force Touch in Weather Underground gives you three options – Hourly Forecast, 10-Day Forecast, and your Locations.
Wow. 4000 words and several screenshots and I’ve only touched on a handful of the weather apps that are currently available for Apple Watch. watchOS 2 will also bring a slew of new apps and updates to current apps, as these apps will be able to run natively on the watch. Right now, the delay in opening the apps and grabbing data is substantial. In fact, most of the time my watch display turns off before all of the data is loaded. Not a great experience.
The apps above all have similarities. They all perform about the same. The biggest differences are in the design and which information the developers have chosen to display – on the main screen, on scrolling screens, and via taps and swipes. For me, the main screen is the most important, and I want the app to be intuitive. I want to quickly see the current conditions and what I can expect in the next few hours, including the high/low. I like to know the humidity/windchill/feels like info, as well as the probability of precipitation. I’m not overly concerned with radars or multi-day forecasts, at least on my watch.
Best Glance: (Tie) Apple Weather & Weather Underground
Apple’s default glance is pretty good. It’s got a weather icon, the temperature, text with the current conditions and the high/low for the day. It uses the whole screen, and looks good. It could add some more information and make everything a bit smaller, but it’s pretty good for v1 of a stock app.
Weather Underground wastes space with the date and time at the top, and huge font they’ve used for the location, but it features a weather icon, high/low, temperature and a 3-hour look-ahead with weather icons. If they dumped the stuff at the top, they could add temp to the 3-hour sections and they could add a “feels like” under the temperature.
Best App: Living Earth
This was a tough choice, and honestly I will probably be going back and forth between a couple of apps until watchOS 2 is released and the weather apps can really show their muscle. Until then, I like Living Earth’s watch app. The main screen gives me a weather icon, the temperature, high/low and pop. It then starts to give an overview of the next several days. Swiping over I can see some eye candy and then the third screen will become important soon as we are currently at the start of hurricane season and we usually get one or two making landfall in Halifax.
I do wish it had a “feels like” temperature, and I would dump the extended forecast on the first screen and add text about current conditions and attempt to include MinuteCast-like information. But overall, I like this app the best.
Runners-up: I love the MinuteCast feature of AccuWeather and The Weather Network‘s version as well. The information is fairly accurate, though in Canada it doesn’t seem to be as reliable as a lot of places in the states, and of course smaller towns don’t get as much love as bigger cities. Overall, the Apple Weather app is a pretty darn good option, especially with the ability to see temp/pop/conditions for the next several hours in a simple, elegant, circular design.
I’m excited to see what watchOS 2 will bring to all apps, and I think we will see major improvements in weather apps upon its release. Until then, I hope this article has given some insight into the current glance and app options.