Weather apps come in as many flavors as degrees on a thermometer, but most of them serve a similar purpose--telling you the forecast.
Some get fancier by showing you what you ought to wear or alerting you just moments before it starts raining so you have time to get the laundry off the clothesline. But we went hunting for those special snowflakes, apps that present weather data in unique, surprising ways. From slick design to social integration, these apps are like a cool breeze on a stifling day--and yes, they can still deliver the forecast.
Let's face it, sometimes it's just too cold for the beach, no matter how much you wish it weren't, and it's downright cruel to make yourself mow the lawn when the twin thugs of heat and humidity are at their worst. Foresee lets you set ideal conditions for a huge range of outdoor activities, and then it checks the forecast and gives you an idea of when you might like to do those things. When you find the perfect time, you can post it to Facebook or Twitter to cajole your friends into coming along.
The vast list of built-in activities includes picnics, a trip to the amusement park, kayaking, and snowboarding, as well as more chore-like fare like mowing the grass or golfing. (Just kidding, golfers, calm down. Actually you'll be thrilled to know you can set different conditions for putting practice, the driving range, and a full round.) For each activity, you can set up to three of six conditions: temperature, chance of rain or snow, cloud cover, UV index, wind, and humidity. Track as many cities as you like, with unique activities in each one.
The navigation is fluid and invuitive, and with its bright colors, round icons, and thin type on a white background, it feels designed for iOS 7. And for me at least, it's also a good motivation to get off the couch and enjoy a hike while the weather is nice, because, really, Netflix isn't going anywhere.
Another app designed to complement iOS 7's flat aesthetic and bright colors, the iPad-only Morning is kind of like Status Board for the beginning of your day. It integrates the time, your calendar appointments and reminders list, news, stocks, your commute time--and yes, weather--into a flexible, customizable, clean display.
It could use a few more features, but since the app is barely a week old, Morning's day is still young. Developer Tinder plans to integrate data from other apps (say, fitness trackers and more to-do apps). Currently the weather panel can show basic info like the day's high and low temps, or a more robust version that includes an hourly forecast plus humidity, chance of precipitation, dew point, and wind speed.
When a social butterfly flaps its wings in San Francisco, how does that affect the rainfall in Prospect Park? Weathermob's raison d'etre is helping you share the weather details at your location, in a lighthearted, almost silly way.
The report screen doesn't ask for details like precipitation levels or temperature (presumably it knows that already), but you can spin three dials to tell the world the overall sunny/cloudy/rainy one-word weather report, plus how you feel about it and what it's good for--because apparently the mob wants to know if you're in a great mood and think conditions are ideal for chasing butterflies.
Luckily, less slot machine-inspired options let you compose a 140-character missive (a format as familiar as the chilly San Francisco fog), snap a photo or video, or add one or the other from your camera roll. So it's kind of like a weather-themed Instagram/Twitter clone, and you can post to Twitter or Facebook too. If you're dying for one more friends list, you can follow users that show up in local feeds, and like and comment on their posts. This iPhone-only app (updated Friday to version 2.0) feels a little overly complicated for what it delivers, but if you want to see what other weather geeks around the globe are reporting, it's worth checking out.
On the more serious tip, if you want to share actual data with legitimate scientists, the mPING app lets you report weather conditions to the NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma, which run the mPING Project, or Meteorological Phenomena Indentification Near the Ground. The app is pretty bare-bones, but it's free for both Android and iOS.
InstaWeather Pro--iOS and Android ($2)
If you'd rather post images of the weather--gorgeous or inclement, it doesn't matter--to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr, go for InstaWeather Pro, which overlays weather data on your pictures. You can choose from dozens of options, including some that even give the forecast for up to seven days.
So if you take a shot of yourself bunded up in a snowstorm, your friends don't have to guess (or take your word for it) that it's 10 degrees below freakin' zero with 30mph winds. Your picture will clearly tell them. Conversely, that shot of you sunbathing on a yacht in Cannes will make your friends even more jealous if they can see that it was also a perfect 83-degree day with nearly no humidity. Why not take photobragging to a whole new level by claiming credit for weather you had nothing to do with? It's the American way.
Plus, the photos look pretty great, and you can share them on Facebook, Twitter, or Foursqure from inside the InstaWeather app; send them via email or SMS; save to your camera roll; and of course send them to Instagram. Photos you share to Instagram open up in that app, ready for filtering, tagging, and sharing. Free versions are available for iOS and Android too, but it's worth the $2 for the full version.
Living Earth--iOS ($3) and Mac ($7)
If you ever needed a reminder that weather is a global phenomenon, Living Earth has one--a globe, that is. It's a beautiful, zoomable, spinning globe that displays real-time cloud cover, so you can check out storm systems over the ocean as if you were peering down from a perch on the moon. If clouds aren't your thing, you can also see the current temperatures, wind, and humidity--either what's happening right now or what's in the forecast.
Tap the button that looks like a little hurricane symbol to see a list of active storms, and then tap one to zoom right to it. You can also save a list of cities and swipe between them, which whips the globe to that location so you can see the London fog or the rain in Spain.
A Mac version is available too, and even though this exact app isn't on Android, Google's platform has some imitators that still deliver the world as live wallpaper. The best is Live Earth Wallpaper, which can show you cloud cover across the globe, plus reports of earthquakes, hail, wind, and tornados.