Thursday, February 23, 2012

WeatherBug


WeatherBug is the first weather app I ever downloaded. I originally downloaded it because my co-worker told me to and since then I've tried other weather apps and none of them prove to be better or more consistent than WeatherBug. When I decided to do a weather app review, I figured I'd go out and try  a few other apps and compare them. While doing this I only affirmed one thing - my co-worker was right. WeatherBug is the best. Read on to find out why.


App Profile
Type: Weather
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, Windows Phone
Developer: Earth Networks
Reason for downloading: To stay as updated as possible with weather conditions

The live camera option is found on all
versions of the app
I live in Minnesota. There's very few things we talk about here more than weather. Here, bringing weather up to a complete stranger is a good way to start a conversation. Bringing up the weather is a good way to defuse a sticky situation. It's a good filler in awkward situations. It's a good sub-topic to bring up when referring to just about anything else. It's a good main topic. It's even a good way to meet your future wife. If you can make it an entire day without talking about the weather in Minnesota then you probably haven't talked all day. But why is weather so important here? Because it dictates your life in most cases. In the summer it can exceed 100 degrees with dew points exceeding 80%. In the winter actual temperature often drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and can get to below -50 degrees. Throw wind chill on it and it's literally unsafe to leave the house. In the spring we get floods, in the summer we get tornadoes, and in the fall, winter, and sometimes spring we get blizzards.

So weather is important to us here. Accurate reporting of the weather is even more important.

WeatherBug changes a little bit from platform to platform. They're actually so different that I'm going to dedicate a small section to the Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone apps.

The home page of the iPhone app
iPhone
Weatherbug on the iPhone is a great addition to what I call your "basic" apps (apps that everyone should have on their phone). The nice thing is that there is a both a paid called WeatherBug Elite and a free version of this app on the App Store. The only difference between the two is $0.99 and the paid one doesn't have ads. I'll leave it up to you to decide which way to go.

Once in the app, navigating is pretty self-explanatory and simple. The scroll-bar at the bottom allows you to select which section of the app you'd like to look at. When you tap on a section, it comes up and displays in above on the larger section of screen. From any screen within the application you can select a different location and save it under your saved locations. This comes in very handy for me when travelling in the winter to know if there's going to be some problems with winter weather.

The home page is mostly dedicated to the current day's highs, lows, current temp, weather, wind, dewpoint, and humidity. The bottom part gives a brief glimpse into the next three days with highs, lows, and weather type. If you have the free version, the ads go right beneath that.

Detailed daily forecast going out a week
The next screen offers a detailed weather analysis all the way down to what the weather is supposed to be like in a given hour. This is handy if you're trying to get something done before a storm hits. It's pretty dang accurate too. You can pick the day you would like and go from there.

There's also a radar map that will show expected precipitation movement over the previous hour. This will give you a good idea of what to expect also. If you know your area well and how storms normally move, this may even be all you ever use.

Other cool features include the ability to view participating cameras in certain cities or areas. This is the next best thing to actually being outside there. It obviously gives you the most up-to-date possible information on an area and if that specific storm is heading in your direction it is a good way to see what that storm is going to do to you. There's also a video screen where you can watch a real person give daily weather forecasts and, finally, the settings menu to control notifications and such.

Unfortunately there's no support on the iPhone app to have the weather from WeatherBug show up in the pull-down menu at the top of the phone to replace the iPhone's weather. It isn't the apps fault, it's just that iPhone doesn't support it at the time of this writing. I wish there was a little bit more freedom with this app to do a little more on the iPhone. Where the app IS missing is when it comes to the stuff they provide to the user on the iPhone platform. The answer is the Android app!

One of my Android phone's
homescreens is always dedicated to
Weatherbug widgets.
Android
WeatherBug on an Android phone is better than on any other phone. It has more options and more freedom to be all it wants to be. I am literally more satisfied with my Android phones over-all simply because of having WeatherBug on it.

WeatherBug on Android has almost the exact same in-app setup as the iPhone. The only difference is slightly different animation and skin. The menu for selecting what section of the app is a scroll-bar at the bottom for both. This is where the similarities stop, however.

There is both a paid and a free version of WeatherBug available for Android, the paid version being called, "WeaatherBug Elite." The free one has ads, the paid one doesn't, and the cost of the paid one is $1.99. Also unique to the paid version are some widgets that you can't get with the free version. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a widget is, take a look at the screenshot to the right. Honestly, between the widgets and the Android's ability to allow apps to display icons at the top of the screen at all times, I rarely need to enter the actual WeatherBug app to find out what's going on with the weather. This I like. Notice at the top of the screenshot to the right I can see the current temperature at the top. This is EXTREMELY nice and helpful to know how to dress without having to actually go outside before I decide and I don't care how lazy that sounds because I know you all do the same thing... or you don't and you over or underdress.

The pollen count screen
Another clear advantage of this app on the Android is the pollen count screen in the app. I can tell what the pollen count is and what type of pollens are going to be predominant. It's good for me because there's certain times in the summer when my allergies go CRAZY and I have to be taking medication to get through the day. This summer I plan on using this app to find out what types of pollens bug me the most so I can be ready in the future.

Another difference between the apps on Android and iPhone is the severe weather notification part, especially the dedicated section within the app that covers weather alerts. If there's severe weather alerts in the area(s) that you've set up in your app, you can set up the app so it notifies you in the notification menu of your android device. From there, if you get a notification of severe weather, all you have to do is click on it and it brings you to the screen within the WeatherBug app and it gives you all the information you need on that warning, including when it's going to start, an estimated end-time, and what that severe weather will look like. Again, being a Minnesota boy this is most definitely needed through all seasons of the year.

All the sections available on the iPhone are also available on the Android phone so check out that section for more on what's available on both phones.

Windows Phone
The app for WeatherBug available on the Windows Phone is setup WAY differently than on the iPhone or Android, mostly because it they do a good job of mimicking the Windows Phone layout inside their app. Instead of having the scroll-bar at the bottom, they have the Windows Phone style scroll-bar at the top for selecting different sections of the app. There's the home screen that shows the same things as the other apps, but includes two extra days - giving a short five-day forecast instead of only a three-day. There's still the detailed forecast screen that allows you to look up daily and hourly forecasts details.

The other screens look very similar to the screenshot here. All the sections available on Windows Phone are the same as the iPhone. There is not a paid version of this app available so you will have to put up with ads. The live tile on the front screen of your Windows Phone updates and shows a little picture of what the weather is currently like, as well as the current temperature. It's not as nice as having a widget on the Android phones, but it's better than the iPhone's options.

Overall
WeatherBug is one of the best weather apps I've used. For Android, I haven't found a better app. For iPhone, there's a few out there that are comparable, but as I said in the intro, WeatherBug is accurate and consistent. It's full of options and I love the radar availability. I haven't found anything I'd rather use on any platform!


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