While web apps aren’t nearly as popular or functional as their native counterparts, Sun, a recently updated iOS weather web app, does something that even native apps can’t do: Change the app’s icon based on the weather right now.
The web app in fact does a lot of things that are generally seen only in native apps. It has a fancy 3D interface, fluid animations, a gesture based user interface and sounds that play on button taps.
The interface is a 3D cube with four of its faces showing temperatures in cities that can be set by you. One of those cities is automatically set based on your location (you need to have Location Services enabled in Settings for the web app), and the other three can be set manually. You can choose from 9 different color schemes, set a preferred temperature unit and see past and future weather reports.
After adding the web app on your iOS home screen, the app would set the icon based on the current weather. Due to restrictions of running in the background, the updating isn’t live, and needs to be triggered every once in a while by launching the app. It is a clever hack nonetheless, and is still more dynamic than native app icons.
— Jake Marsh (@jakemarsh) February 24, 2013
While some native web apps use the notification badge icon as a way to display the temperature on the home screen, I think Sun’s way is much better.
These “hacks” also highlight how desperately iOS needs live icons and widgets that makes it easier for apps to display information right on the home screen as opposed to asking the user to open it every time. There were some concerns earlier about how this might hog resources and reduce battery life, but newer generations of iPhones have enough horse power to support such a system.
You can use Sun by heading over to this webpage on your iPhone or iPad and adding it to your home screen.