A weather service might not seem like the most important iPhone app, but consider how big an impact the state of the sky has on your daily life. The Weather Underground app does an excellent job of giving you the most important information about the weather right now and in the immediate future, and lets you drill down for more information, too. It remains my Editors’ Choice for iPhone weather apps.
Weather Underground has a markedly different appearance from Yahoo Weather and The Weather Channel apps. Instead of the lush, photographic backdrops of Yahoo and the Weather Channel, Weather Underground is just text and solid colors. It’s not as easy on the eyes, but it is extremely informative. Prettier apps, for example, might require you to tap or swipe before you can actually see the information you need.
As with most weather apps, Weather Underground is mostly a vertical experience. The top of the app delivers a wealth of information in a single screen. You can view the high and low temperatures, the “feels like” temperature, the last time the app updated its data, current weather conditions, and a link to the app’s social Crowd Reports feature. There’s also more in-depth information, such as a tiny radar map, wind direction, the chance of precipitation, and a textual weather forecast. Everything you’re likely to need most of the time is front and center.
One neat thing is that the app also tells you what weather station it’s using for its information. Part of what makes Weather Underground so cool is that it taps into hobbyist and professional weather sensors to gather its data. This means you’re more likely to see information that’s directly relevant to you.
The Crowd Reports feature is worth calling out since it has become so popular with other apps but originated with Weather Underground. The app shows a suggested Crowd Report icon—say, a shining sun—and you tap to either confirm that you’re also seeing clear skies or reject it and select from five cloud-cover options and four hazards: rain, thunder, snow, and fog. It’s a fun little feature, but one that continues to be only rarely utilized by other people.
The textual forecast is as simple as it is brilliant. Just tap the large circle displaying the temperature information and you’ll see a short sentence that compares today’s weather conditions to yesterday’s. For example, “Today is forecast to be warmer than yesterday.” It’s context, plain and simple, and I am amazed no other weather apps have copied it yet.
While Weather Underground’s top panel is locked in place, the rest can be reordered. You can even hide entire panels from the Settings section. Yahoo Weather also lets you reorder panels, but no app but Weather Underground that I’ve yet seen lets you remove sections you don’t want to see. Additionally, there is only one ad at the top of the screen and occasionally one more below, unlike the numerous ads peppered throughout The Weather Channel’s app. For a meager $1.99 per year, you can have Weather Underground completely ad-free.
The default configuration includes panels for 10-day and hourly forecasts; health information, which includes data on pollen, air quality, and flu infections; sunrise time, sunset time, and moon phase; and extended text forecasts. I am impressed to see pollen and flu information included in Weather Underground, but disappointed to see nothing of airport delays—a feature found in The Weather Channel app.
The most useful of Weather Underground’s panels is the combination hourly and 10-day forecast panel, which shows the high and low temperatures, the chance of precipitation, wind data, and a temperature graph. The temperature prediction for each day is displayed as a red line on the graph, with the chance of precipitation as a blue field on the same graph. It fits a lot of information about the entire week into a very small space, and is understood at a glance.
One recent tweak to the 10-day forecast panel adds a badge if there’s inclement weather predicted for the day, and each day now includes the total predicted precipitation accumulation. This is actually a rarity among weather apps, and the only other app I’ve seen it in is the snow-specific Snowcast.
Weather Underground also recently added a new tile called Smart Forecasts, which is designed to help you plan around activities that could be affected by the weather. Choose an activity from the list of 13 and Weather Underground shows a bar graph indicating when there is good weather conditions for that activity. You can also edit existing activities or create your own from scratch. For example, I chose the Walking activity and then tweaked its settings by lowering the acceptable chance of precipitation and adding settings for Mugginess and UV Index. It’s a smart feature, and one that leverages Weather Underground’s data in a new and more personal way.
Weather Radar, WebCams, Alerts, and More
Tap the radar map preview in the top panel and it opens to reveal the WunderMap. If radar maps are your jam, you might want to consider Storm, the company’s new spinoff app that is focused on adverse weather and makes extensive use of the company’s radar map.
The WunderMap does more than the average radar map. It can, for example, show a breakdown of data from all the weather stations in your area, or temperature zones. You can zoom in and out with a pinch, and animate the data on the screen with a tap. The information loads and animates smoothly on my iPhone.
If you want even more information, you can open the Layers option. Here you can mix and match different overlays, like US weather fronts, Storm Tracks, and Satellite View, to name a few. Some features, like Future Radar, and Lightning have been broken off to the Storm app. That’s fine with me, since the original incarnation of the WunderMap was overstuffed anyway. But I would still like it if I could save my custom Layer views.
Even in its somewhat reduced form, the Wundermap also has many more options than Dark Skies’ radar map, including overlays for just about every weather condition you can think of. That said, Dark Skies has a stunning 3D globe that shows worldwide and hyper-local weather. I’m not a big fan of radar maps and find the experience a bit overwhelming and not very useful. Weather Underground could help this problem by providing more detailed explanations for each layer.
Weather Underground also packs its hidden left tray with its Twitter account, a blog, National Weather Service Updates, Hurricane data, ski reports, local weather radio, and video content. This last category is noteworthy because, unlike the videos on The Weather Channel’s app, these are mostly about weather.
There are a few other surprising features, such as Push Alerts. You can choose a city and times when you’re willing to receive alerts, and then you select all or some of the 16 possible alerts. The app also supports an Apple Watch complication, and includes an excellent iOS 10 Widget that shows you the day’s predicted conditions.
Not a Cloud in the Sky
I wouldn’t call any part of Weather Underground stunningly beautiful, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in smart design and rock-solid data. It’s easily reconfigurable to reflect your specific interests with real, actionable information from nearby weather stations. And now it can be found on your wrist or in the Widget panel. For all that, it remains my Editors’ Choice for iPhone weather apps.