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“Weather” search / App Store

A Crisis of Whether Weather

Canonicalization of simplicity reaps only a cesspool of data, and no clear-cut winner

Julian Weiss
Nov 12, 2013 · 3 min read

The excessive quantities of Weather apps on all platforms has never been more apparent than today. Even though the existence of a formidable, arguably feature-adequate app existed in the original iPhone OS, nearly every week brings a tundra of new apps that “revolutionize” the way we receive elementary data. In the Weather-armada’s defense, most people truly desire an easy, feature-complete way to access the current weather— just the same as sports fans and keynote-addicts watch broadcasts and livestreams from the best platform they can. Our problem, however, is in the overapplication of the same data in slightly different containers. Particularly in iOS 7, every app seems to brag of its blurred interface and simple gestures, features that exist in even the most rudimentary apps. In essence, we have only had two strong forces acting in this community, since its handheld inception: 1) gesture-based, native applications that clearly and quickly express common data, and 2) complex, formidable applications that possess data from multiple sources, and present more complete information.

Today, I only see reason to have two weather apps installed (a statement many iOS users surely disagree with, for opposing reasons). The first is the default, iOS 7 Weather app— the uninstallable inheritance of Yahoo’s beautiful rebirth near the end of iOS 6. The second is Dark Sky, the unbeatable amalgamation of unique data that’s not only personable, but also stunningly accurate (in addition, Push notifications for weather conditions is unreal). Why have cube-wrapped apps that focus on ridiculous quantities of information that have little to no use to the average user (precise humidity changes, wind direction, changes in cloud formations, etc)? There’s never been a reason to use any other applications other than these two, and although I’ve given many, many a fair chance, none have lasted more than a day.

But that doesn’t mean innovation has leveled out. For me, there still feels like a spot yet to be filled in Weather, believe it or not. And that’s sociability. Something that it’s hard to believe is still needed somewhere on the web.

Consider, for a moment, your average morning. For me, it’s simple: hit snooze a few times, shake off the sleepiness, shower, check weather, dress appropriately, hustle out the door. The only maneuver in that process that has any room to change (at the moment) is the weather-checking, and it’s interesting how much I feel it should. When I enter the native Weather app, I’m greeted with a few friendly averages and locational information that’s supposed to inform me sufficiently. Is that honestly what it does, though? Is the estimated temperature and predicted storm conditions adequate? Take this comparison, for example: is a mostly-accurate map of your neighborhood satisfactory for navigating the streets at any given time? Do GPSs require user-feedback and to-date information from the users as well as the sources? Waze would say so. The ideal way to be presented with and utilize information is through a loop— the source is evaluated by the source-takers until everything’s equivalent. Do I really care about that big Fahrenheit number, or is it more important to know if it only just started raining, or if the wind really kicked up in the last few minutes (and I should prepare layers)? Yeah, apps like Swackett attest to such usability, but it lacks the guarantee that a person next to you can propose.

Weather is precisely where most want things to be taken out of their hands. The information should be accurate, understandable, and useful. Such goals are unreachable with only government-supplied data and meteorologist predictions. Although quite challenging to implement, we need the user to be a key participant, especially when its obvious that they’re so easy to reach. We need a Waze-revolution in Weather.

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