Track the rain in your area with Dark Sky [review]


Weather apps are a dime a dozen on any smartphone platforms, iOS even has a built-in Weather app. They can try too hard to show you what’s going to come from the skies above, though. Sometimes you just want a clear message of what’s happening now and in the immediate future, that’s what Dark Sky offers. Now that, the application has been updated to give weather forecasts in the UK, we take a look at test it against the English weather.

Dark Sky is an amazingly simple weather app, the initial screen is split into two main parts: a precipitation chart and forecasts for now and the next hour. The former section shows a chart of how heavily it will rain around you. Interestingly, while most weather apps show a percentage chance of rain, Dark Sky animates its chart to indicate the uncertainty in how much rain there’ll be. This manifests itself as a wobble effect in the outline of the chart.

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When you tap the Now and Next box, it slips upwards revealing four temperature forecasts for the following 3 hours, ‘this’ evening, overnight, and the following morning. This section is also headed by a textual forecast. For example, “Windy tomorrow afternoon, with rain until tonight, starting again tomorrow morning”. Apparently the wording of those forecasts have been improved with the v3.0 release of Dark Sky. Again, this shows Dark Sky’s hallmark characteristic of not overcomplicating weather forecasts.

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Also on the front page, there’s a location bar at the bottom that lets you search for a specific location or automatically detect your location (as long as you grant it permission when prompted). Incidentally, if no rain is expected Dark Sky will suggest a place in the world that is currently having a storm, and allow you to switch to that location to see an epic precipitation chart.

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The top of the app’s main page gives two virtual buttons: one for switching notifications on or off, and the other switches to a radar view. Notifications appear as badges on the lock screen and in the notification centre. Meanwhile, latter button gives a time slider for the currently selected location that runs over a precipitation chart (as seen on the main screen). The main part of the screen shows your part of the world with radar return signals from clouds. The denser the cloud, the bigger the return and the greater the chance of rain. As you drag the slider, you get to see the cloud signals move across the map. I’ve seen other weather apps on other platforms attempt to display information like this, but they have not worked as smoothly as Dark Sky does.

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In addition to better forecast wording and UK support, v3.0 of Dark Sky also implemented a crowd sourced forecasting system. You need to shake your iOS device to reveal the weather report submission form. You can report on the level of cloud and precipitation, and even accompany the report with a photo. It will be interesting to see how Dark Sky utilises photo submissions in the future.

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One thing that I feel is missing from Dark Sky is information about wind. It’s clear that the app has a preoccupation with precipitation, but it’s useful to know about wind as well, and you can’t get that from this app.

Grab Dark Sky from iTunes for $3.99

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Related Topics: iPhone Apps, iPhone Apps Review