When Mother Nature is in a bad mood (which is more likely than ever these days thanks to climate change), it helps to keep an eye on what’s happening in the sky. One of the most important tools for that is a mobile weather app. A good weather app helps you decide if you’ll need to bring an umbrella to work, or prepare for more serious conditions. With wild weather across the country, particularly hurricanes threatening coastal states, it’s a good idea to check the forecast or radar for upcoming conditions. A weather app lets you do that wherever you are, whenever you like.
When testing weather apps, we spent most of our time evaluating the effectiveness of their design. An ideal weather app is visually pleasing and easy to use. If you have to dig through several screens to find out when it’s going to rain, the app is off to a bad start.
What we didn’t look for is whether or not the predicted weather came to pass. Our reasons are twofold: First, most weather apps get the bulk of their data from the National Weather Service. Some also pull the predictions from services like AccuWeather, Dark Sky, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some companies, like The Weather Channel, have their own predictive models, but many apps are just shells into which data flows.
Second, and more importantly, to really determine the accuracy of the service’s model, we’d have to perform exhaustive tests across the globe. We’re simply not set up to tackle that kind of challenge. As it stands, we’ll assume that if a company has invested the time and effort to create its own predictive models for something as complex as weather, then it probably knows more about meteorology than we do.
For what it’s worth, the apps were all quite accurate during testing. Despite earlier conspiracies, the rollout of the 5G wireless network shouldn’t ruin these weather forecasts. Besides, right now you should be staying inside anyway to help curb the ongoing pandemic, even on the nicest of days. If you’re really concerned about accuracy, consider getting a weather station of your own. Though weather stations are more about recording your local data than about getting forecasts, setting up and maintaining a weather station is a fun science project—just maybe not right before a hurricane hits.
At first, we did not fully appreciate the sheer number of weather apps available for Android and iOS devices. In the end, we picked those we thought offered something unique, along with the most popular apps. The vast majority of these apps are free, so try them out until you find the sunniest one for you.
1Weather hangs its hat on slick widgets that deliver weather information. You can track hourly and weekly forecasts, view precipitation and radar maps, and study the sun and moon’s positions. Text blurbs in the Discussion section offer additional context about upcoming weather patterns.
Its new interface may be complex, but AccuWeather has seen major improvements thanks to a recent revision. The planning features are more comprehensive, as they use weather data to help you manage allergies, safely drive, or boost productivity. We still like that it includes a news section for watching videos about upcoming weather events.
Flowx: Weather Map Forecast
Flowx pulls from a variety of local and global sources to give Android owners the most accurate forecasts possible. Premium users can customize graphs, maps, and widgets to present this deep weather data however they like. An iOS version is also in the works.
Plume Labs: Air Quality App
Air quality is a piece of weather data that greatly impacts personal health. Even if you aren’t directly caught in a wildfire, smoke-filled air can still make it dangerous to go outside. This air quality app from Plume Labs offers real-time, local pollution information, a sadly vital service in our current climate.
WeatherBug’s performance has improved, but it’s far from snappy. However, multiple new versions of the app, including Weather Elite and WeatherBug Widget, give users some choices. Plus WeatherBug’s lightning-detection feature is pretty uncommon and useful.
What the Forecast
If you’re looking for another weather app unafraid to show its personality, consider What the Forecast. Severe snowstorms? Better stock up on toilet paper. The sun isn’t just shining, it’s shining out of your butt. If you ever lose your internet connection, the app just tells you the weather in Hell, which, in the long run, is probably the most useful information for most of us anyway.
Yahoo Weather is a beautifully designed app that brings in the best features of other weather apps—and even improves on them. Crowdsourced images from Flickr are prominently featured, and really bring this app to life. It could use more radar map options, and a tool for crowdsourcing weather observations. If you don’t like Weather Underground, give this one a spin.