When the iPad was first introduced, it didn’t come with a weather app. Most people thought it was simply an oversight in the keynote presentation. Steve Jobs didn’t want to sacrifice precious time on what was certainly an auxiliary to the headlining features of the iPad.
Then the iPad shipped, and the official iOS Weather app was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, iPad owners didn’t have much to worry about. By the time the iPad went on sale, Apple’s legion of iOS developers were just itching to fill the void.
But eagerness alone doesn’t translate into quality. For the last 14 months, there haven’t been any real standout weather applications – except apps like Weather HD, a beautiful but less than practical source of information. A lot of the traditional standbys are there, ones from the big names in the weather industry. The apps they had were adequate, but far from compelling. Remember though, the App Store ecosystem is special because it puts independent developers on a level playing field with these bigger, more established companies.
Today I’m proud to present an app from an indie development team that takes a different, more aesthetic approach to presenting the weather on the iPad. Aelios, from Jilion. If you’re a fan of beautiful, useful apps, you’re really going to love this one.
First Up, the Premise
Every good app needs to have a perspective. Good software shouldn’t be all things to all people, it should be specific about what it does, and do that well. Aelios exemplifies that.
This isn’t the right app for a weather nerd. The data it gives you, while adequate, is by no means extensive. But that’s ok.
It artfully shows you enough to get a handle on what the weather’s going to be like in the next 24 hours, or the next 7 days. Using visual aids Aelios shows you what kind of weather is in your near future, including the temperature and wind direction/speed.
The User Interface, and Experience
Without question, screenshots alone of this app are going to sell a lot of copies. I know they grabbed my attention right away. All of the data that Aelios provides is overlaid on a fullscreen satellite map of the area in question. This creates a continuously unique, and truly beautiful backdrop for what could otherwise be fairly stale content.
Another important thing that Jilion really nailed is the experience of using the app. Oftentimes the word “fluid” is thrown around a lot when describing iPad apps. In Aelios’ case it’s really true. Everything is so smooth. The buttons, looking enticingly tappable, subtly animate from one view to another.
Something that could otherwise be extremely prone to errors, selecting a location on a Google map, is assisted by “location locking”, something Jilion put a lot of thought and work into perfecting.
The other data, the bits describing a location like name, elevation, and time, are all swiftly updated in real time. Even though the data’s being piped in on-the-fly, never does Aelios feel like it’s lagging or slow.
My favorite feature of Aelios is a small detail. It’s something you might miss at first, and something I can’t show you in a screenshot. When looking at the weather forecast, each of the “icons” showing what the conditions will be like is animated. But it’s so subtle it’s easy to overlook. It’s done so artfully, so beautifully, that every time I see it, it makes me smile.
To see the app in action, try watching the demo video on the Aelios site. You might even catch those animations I was talking about.
Some Humble Suggestions
The developers at Jilion have been beyond helpful in my efforts to write this review. Speaking to them, they have in the works some server-side adjustments to try and get even more accurate forecasting data for areas around the world. This app really feels like something they want to build, and adapt. So I’d like to make just a few small suggestions.
First off, as I’m sure you’ve seen in the screenshots, the core of the app is a central dial mimicking a fine watch face. The interface is a clever one, and works well in this context. But I must admit that the visual styling could be a touch more detailed. I’d like to see some more realistic textures, some more sophisticated lighting effects.
I think they have a great concept here, and it’s implemented well. I’d just like to see the element that’s the main focus of the app be a bit more polished, to really elevate the UI to the next level.
I think a big request from many will be for more data. I think Jilion will need to walk a fine line there. While I’m sure more data could be useful, incorrectly implementing it could be detrimental to Aelios. I’m very curious to see what path Jilion takes where additional content is concerned. I’m confident their skilled designers will come up with a satisfying solution to any information density problems.
So now that you’ve seen it, what do you think? Aelios gives me the weather-centric data I need wrapped in an elegant interface. I love it, and it’s already proven extremely useful in my day-to-day life. Hopefully it’ll do the same for you.