The App Store does not have a shortage of weather apps. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of good weather apps in the App Store. It is also apparent that weather apps go through trends. First there were the expected apps from The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. These apps provide a one-stop shop and a lot of detail, but will include ads and usually will have usability problems. Next, powerful radar apps starting to make more of an appearance. Now it seems the minimal weather app is making the trend through the App Store with the release of Kelvin and others.
One app that bucked the trend of how apps are developed is Dark Sky, which started out as a KickStarter project. The developers presented their idea and met their funding goal to finish the app and bring their idea to completion. The developers also decided to only focus on one aspect for their weather app: precipitation. Sound interesting? Read on to find out if DarkSky can help keep you dry.
The developers of Dark Sky wanted to re-think the typical design of a weather app from the start. The biggest design factor in a weather app is the radar functionality. The developers started with a completely fresh idea for the radar map. Instead of the normal green, yellow and red colors showing the severity of the precipitation, Dark Sky relies on a purple and yellow theme.
The radar map is not the only part of the app that has a unique design. A graph of the level of precipitation is in view when not viewing the radar map. This graph will also show the severity of precipitation along a timeline over the next hour.
Using the iPad’s screen real estate to the its full advantage, the developers put the radar in view at all times. Under the timeline are two indicators with the current status of precipitation. These can change from now rain, light rain and to further degrees of the level of precipitation. The current condition description also includes the current temperature. These current descriptions are not stagnant, but can be slid off the screen to the left to reveal more expected rain chances and temperature for the next 24 hours.
As previously mentioned, Dark Sky is not competing with the full featured weather clients in the App Store. The main thrust of the app is to communicate if it will rain soon. Dark sky aims to be checked on a regular basis and to be your go-to companion before going outside, and it does so by using your current location. The app does allow manual input of a location as well, and will keep a list of the most recently pulled locations. Each location has a lock next to it which allows for you save the location to the top of the list, very similar to marking a location as a favorite.
Press within the location bar to bring up the window with recent locations and to manually enter a location.
I was hesitant that Dark Sky would work reliably with the rain prediction. Most weather apps I have tried have been terrible at weather forecasting. I know this is not specifically related to the apps themselves, but rather the backend supporting the apps, but Dark Sky uses NOAA and while testing it seemed to be pretty reliable.
An instance of successful testing was when I was debating about eating lunch outside. I pulled up the app and it informed me that it would rain during the next hour, but I had about 50 minutes before it started. I decided to take the chance, and I ended up getting back into my office in time to beat the shower that came through. I am sure there will be instances when I will get burned, but it is weather, something that is incredibly hard to predict, so I understand some rate of error.
Dark Sky recently was updated to version 2.0 which brought two significant features, including USA map view and push notifications. The push notifications are a welcome addition, and having them activated have saved me twice so far from getting wet. The other impressive feature is the USA radar map, which really shines on the iPad.
The USA map can be activated by pressing the USA overlay on the map. Dark Sky will zoom out to reveal the weather in the continental United States. This map is also adjustable by using the timeline under the radar map. Locations can be zoomed in on to examine storms or clear skies in further detail.
Press and hold on a location while in the USA radar map view to precisely zoom in on that location.
So far I have been able to test Dark Sky with five storms. Only three of them have occurred since the introduction of push notifications in version 2.0, and the app notified me on two out of three occasions. While not perfect, I am happy with that percentage.
Dark Sky focuses on keeping you dry and keeping you informed about rainy conditions so you can be better prepared to go about your day. The usefulness of the app will depend on your location. I see it being irreplaceable in the northwest where rainy conditions are a common occurrence.
It is important to note the app does only work in the United States. The developers are currently investigating other radar networks to bring Dark Sky available to other countries, but at press time there are no new leads or a timeline for the app to be brought to the rest of the world. If you would like to try and stay dry as well, Dark Sky is worth a look.