Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weather Line 1.0

I’ve been using Weather Line (App Store) for about 10 days now, and it’s my new favorite weather app. It does such a good job of providing useful information at a high density. The chart shows nearly all the important information, and in enough detail that I don’t need to look elsewhere. (I’d like to see precipitation percentages over time and also information about snow accumulation.) You can also tap on an individual upcoming day to get a short textual forecast such as “Light rain in evening.”

The main flaw is that this version doesn’t take advantage of iOS 7’s Background Fetch feature, so sometimes it takes a few seconds to update when I launch the app.

Federico Viticci:

What I like about Weather Line’s UI is that the line has been elegantly augmented with icons, color, and text to carry more information: degrees are shown above the line, and crisp icons indicate weather conditions for each hour, day, or monthly average. For nightly hours, the line is dark, but it turns yellow at predicted sunrise time; if there’s rain on the forecast, the line turns blue.

Update (2013-11-01): Developer Ryan Jones e-mailed to say that the lack of background updates is a deliberate design decision:

We tested and considered it deeply. However, weather data actually changes too rapidly. If we updated in the background, we would still have to update again when you launched the app. So then we’d just be wasting your battery with a background update that we never used. The best experience comes by refreshing data as fast as possible when you launch the app. And we did, it’s very fast.

I’m not convinced. Apple’s own Weather app supports this, and users could always turn it off if desired. For me, battery life has not been a concern. My phone is often docked and on Wi-Fi. However, it is relatively common for me to be out and about with a slow or non-existent cell connection. In these cases, slightly old weather data (e.g. from when I left home) would be preferable to waiting 10–15 seconds to refresh or having to make do with days-old data if it can’t connect. If it makes sense to fetch tweets in the background, I just don’t see a good reason not to do this for relatively less intensive but more important weather data.

Jones also pointed me to the Breckenridge, CO forecast, since we haven’t had much snow here in NH yet. It looks like Weather Line handles snow forecasts pretty well.

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