Some apps in the iOS App Store are unique. There’s only one, maybe two apps that do just what that particular app does, and if you want to get that particular functionality, your choices are limited. Then there are weather apps. Weather apps, frankly, are a little like fart apps, flashlight apps, and, to a degree, Twitter clients: there are lots and lots of them, and though there may be a few standouts, they pretty much all do the same thing. There are scores of weather apps out there, and they pretty much all sport the same standard feature set. Some have a few neat gimmicks, occasionally you’ll find one with a really useful and unique feature, but for the most part, if you’ve seen one weather app, you’ve seen them all.
That said, one of the best and most popular apps in this oversaturated category has always been The Weather Channel. Published, as you probably know, by the people behind the cable network of the same name, The Weather Channel for iPhone is the go-to weather app for an awful lot of iPhone users. If you’re one of those users (and even if you’re not) you’re in for a bit of a treat: The Weather Channel 5.0 went live in the App Store today, and it looks nice. The new app gets a pretty major design overhaul, along with deeper social integration.
The first thing you see when you log into the new app (apart from the lovely sky scene and Weather Channel logo in the lead image above) is your basic weather information screen. This is the most obvious difference between the old version of the app and the new, and it’s definitely a very pretty interface. Here you see, well, what you see on the corresponding screen of just about every weather app: current temperature, what it feels like outside, the low for the evening, etc. You can also access forecast data. The camera icon lets you take a picture of the current weather in your area and upload it to a variety of social networks (more on that in a bit). The little plus-sign box underneath the basic weather info brings up a box with some more detailed information, including the time of sunrise and sunset, current wind direction and speed, humidity, and the like. As you can see below, it’s quite a lovely day here in Kentucky (that background, by the way, changes with the weather conditions, though you can change it from the settings screen):
The other major update to the app is social integration. You can sign in to your basic array of social networks – Facebook and Twitter (sorry, Google+) – as well as iWitness, The Weather Channel’s own little social network for sharing pictures and video of weather.
Another nice social feature is the ability to see what people around you are saying about the weather in your area. This view shows you a series of tweets about what’s going on weather-wise near you. Unfortunately, this particular feature isn’t quite perfected. Though the top tweets about the weather in my area were fine (see below), there were several that weren’t weather related at all. Also, this screen is a bit crowded. The need to include all the various interface elements – the buttons along the bottom, the settings and search icons, and the all-important banner ad – mean that you can only see about two tweets at a time, maybe three if they’re all very short.
Another important feature of the new Weather Channel app is improved severe weather alerts. Now the badges display much more prominently on the main weather information screen. Unfortunately – or rather, fortunately – there weren’t any severe weather alerts nere me, so I couldn’t get a screenshot of the new notifications.
All in all, the new Weather Channel app is a nice update to an app that’s looked basically the same for several years now. The new feature set definitely makes it worth a closer look as a possible replacement for your weather app of choice. You can get The Weather Channel for free in the iOS App Store.