Smart Weather Apps in the Hamptons

It’s been more than 18 months since I took over this column. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever written about weather apps. That’s actually a pretty big deal. I’m one of those guys who always tunes in to the weather channel on TV—at least until they stop showing weather reports. I travel a fair amount for work, so the forecast is always on my mind. And living on the East End, it’s always wise to keep an eye to the sky.

So why haven’t I written about this sooner? It’s a combination of factors. Part of it is product: Until recently, most weather apps featured rather basic layouts that provided very limited information.  Another part is apathy: It just slipped my mind. Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t come across a cool, fun, simple weather app until recently. A few weeks ago, Yahoo came out with a great new free app, and it really grabbed my interest.

DISCLAIMER: My wife happens to work at Yahoo, so I won’t blame you at all if you turn the page and read some other story.  Just know that, if anything, I am biased the other way; I’ve openly mocked Yahoo for it’s old email and garbled homepage. But the Yahoo weather app is truly something–and it’s a great example of how tech companies can leverage several different technologies to make a better product.

First, the details: As I’ve stated, the Yahoo weather app is free to download and takes just a few seconds to install.  It’s a small file, so it loads quickly, which is good. It gets even better from here. Once installed, the app automatically displays the latest weather data from your present location. Click the plus sign on the bottom of the screen and you can quickly enter thousands of locations from around the world. Like I said, it’s simple, but lots of weather apps use the same logic.

The weather graphics and information are delivered in clean, crisp, easy-to-understand overlays on top of the screen. The information cascades downward, starting with bare essentials. To access more detail, you just swipe downward to reveal temperature and sky conditions, hourly forecast, long range forecast, radar map, sunrise and sunset, and more. It’s just the right amount of information, unlike so many weather apps that overdo it with bells and whistles and jargon.

It gets even cooler from here. Instead of displaying the information over a monotonous colored background, the Yahoo app connects to a live photo feed from Flickr. It’s a beautiful twist on the same old app; the photos update every few minutes to add an important layer of real-time, local data to the mix. You don’t just get a static weather report; you actually see the current weather conditions right on your phone.

It’s really fun if you’re dreaming of the ski conditions in Utah or the latest surf weather in Santa Cruz. More significantly, this is social media, delivered in a subtle, visual way. What I like best about this function is the business logic behind it. Yahoo happens to own Flickr, so it’s a great way to pull information from one application into another. And it certainly provides an incentive to Flickr users to take additional photos.

Sure, there are several areas to improve. The radar animation can be choppy and doesn’t always reflect most recent storm or cloud positions. And the photo feed needs to better match the actual conditions; too often I find myself viewing a stock image to display the current conditions. I suspect this will get better as more Flickr users catch on and start uploading and tagging their weather shots.

But if you’re a weather fan, and you want an app that makes it fun and exciting to check the weather report, I highly suggest checking this one out.

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