Weather apps on the iPad have always been an interesting area. Apple has never shipped a stock weather app, so developers and designers haven’t had a starting point to build from as they have on iOS. Many developers have used this to creatively construct an interface that excels in showing information while still being attractive. Others have used this as an excuse to just blow up their iPhone version and call it good.
Yahoo! Weather — henceforth known as simply Yahoo Weather, without the exclamation point — is one of the more recent entrants to the weather category. Featuring a strong backend database and a unique interface that is loaded with data, is it enough to become the best weather app for the iPad?
A Weather App, From Yahoo
Yahoo is a massive company, and this weather app only serves to highlight that. While some of their products are poorly executed, designed, or both, Yahoo Weather shows that talented programmers and designers are working for the online giant in at least some departments.
This giant corporate backing is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it gives the app a backend that is as accurate as any I’ve ever seen. It is so accurate, in fact, that it comes built into the stock iPhone weather app (that app is based heavily upon this app, in fact). It also means that it draws upon the rich photo library of Flickr to find pictures that are from a specific city or town, making the app feel much more customized to a certain location than anything else.
The curse comes in two places. First of all, advertisements for Yahoo Finance, Flickr, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Sports, and other Yahoo apps and web properties are included in the sliding bar. These are easy to ignore, and don’t really do any harm. Secondly, the icon of the app includes a big “Yahoo” logo. Thankfully, the rest of the icon is decent, so it isn’t a complete embarrassment.
Using Yahoo Weather
The app presents a fairly plain view when it first launches, including the temperature, and a small forecast. So far, Yahoo Weather isn’t breaking new ground. Tap the temperature or swipe up, and you immediately are shown what may be the most comprehensive set of weather information in any iPad app, period.
Temperature graphs, a ten-day forecast, written weather reports, humidity, UV Index, dew point, visibility, rain chances for evening, night, and early morning — it’s got everything that I could ask for. Probably the best touch is the wind and sun position indicator: the app uses a semi-circle to show the angular position of the sun, and inside of that are two windmills that spin faster or slower based upon real-world wind conditions. The wind speed is noted next to these windmills.
Below that is the radar, which shows rain, as well as other maps that give information on wind speed in specific locations, a heat map, and a satellite view. The map can be expanded to take up the fullscreen, and can be zoomed in or out as you please. You can also control the time-lapse from this view.
All of that information exists for one location, and you can have many of those. Simply swipe left or right to view other locations. You can add those using the “+” arrow in the top right-hand corner, or in the sliding panel.
The features are there, and the design is also great. Yahoo has managed to cram all of these things into the app without making it feel cluttered, or laggy. Information slides into place in excellent animations as you scroll. The text is light but readable, and the icons in the app are instantly recognizable. The app has a look all its own, and it pulls it off with ease. Yahoo Weather holds its head high among even the best iPad apps.
Yahoo Weather, The Service
So the app itself is fantastic, but that doesn’t do anyone much good if the service itself is inaccurate. That isn’t the case, though. For a worldwide weather network, Yahoo’s service provides an admirable level of accuracy.
For the past few days, the app has been one degree lower than the high-temperature that I personally experienced. That is likely due to whatever weather station that it takes its information from being in a more suburban setting, while I am away from the center of town. Given that, I’m more than willing to let a single degree slide in any direction. The weather outlook has also been consistently accurate: if Yahoo Weather says it’s going to rain, I’m packing an umbrella or a jacket.
My favorite part of the service is that it is worldwide: I have family overseas, and I enjoy being able to know what their weather is. Strange of me, maybe, but it’s still useful in other circumstances. For instance, are you flying to London from New York and want to look at the weather? Some apps will tell you that they only support North American weather locations — Yahoo Weather won’t.
The app is excellent, the backend service is fantastic, and the price is perfect: free. There’s no reason not to throw Yahoo Weather onto your iPad and give it a try, particularly if you’re tired of being limited to only the most basic information by other weather apps, and want to find something that is more in-depth.