Everyone has at least one weather app installed on their phone, but there are so many different ones out there. Finding the “best” one can be a bit difficult, so we’ve rounded up a couple of the best to help you decide.
Obviously, “best” is super subjective, but we’re looking to make your decision simple–after all, that’s what checking the weather should be. So here are what we consider to be the most accurate and efficient ones that will serve most people’s needs.
The Best for Most People: Google Weather
This is different than most other weather apps out there, because it’s not really an app, but rather a quick link generated by Google Now. But it’s super fast, efficient, and has an excellent layout.
Basically, it offers all the daily info on the main page, starting with current conditions. Scrolling down a bit will show all other pertinent info: hourly forecast, wind speed (my favorite feature), precipitation, and sunrise/sunset times. It also offers details for “tomorrow” and a 10-day forecast. It doesn’t have radar, though, which is useful if you want a closer look. It also doesn’t have widgets, if you’re into that. If you are, though, I dig Weather Timeline and 1Weather.
So, how do you get this one? It’s actually really easy: bring up Google Now, then do a search for “Weather.” The top option should read “Access weather instantly from your home screen” with “No Thanks” and “Add” options. Tapping “Add” will instantly place a shortcut on your home screen. Boom.
If, by chance, you accidentally delete the shortcut, you can just search for “weather” again, then tap the three-button menu and select “Add home screen shortcut.”
So, while it doesn’t have the extra features of some other options, its simplicity makes it the app I personally use nine times out of ten. It’s just so accessible and let’s me see what I need to see in the least amount of time–at least, when I don’t need more specific info about when and where it’s going to rain. Also, it’s pretty.
Plus, it’s free. Can’t beat that with a stick.
The Best for Hyperlocal Results: Dark Sky
When it comes to knowing what the weather is going to be exactly where you are, things can get a little dodgy with some apps—most just pull their info from a [somewhat] nearby source, then use it as a blanket for that particular region.
While that may work for some people, I want to know if it’s going to rain where I’m standing. And for that, Dark Sky is where it’s at, because hyperlocation is its calling card. It also has the best name for a weather app I’ve ever heard. It features a great interface, useful widgets, and seems to be super accurate. These are all things that make a great weather app.
There’s a free version of Dark Sky available in the Play Store, but there’s also a subscription model—$3 per year—that adds a small graph with up-to-the-minute rain forecasts. While I initially scoffed at a subscription model for a weather app, I actually think it’s worth it after using Dark Sky Premium for a period of time. Plus, it’s just three dollars.
As implied by its name, Dark Sky’s focus is really on rain—when it’s going to rain and where it’s going to rain. Its interface is very sleek, with current temperature and projected low/high at the top, expected rain in the next hour (premium version only), and a vertical timeline just below with details of what to expect for the day. If it’s going to rain, this will show up as a blue section. Since weather is somewhat unpredictable, this section updates constantly through the day.
Just below the timeline you’ll see the other options: precipitation percentage, wind speed, humidity, and UV index. Tapping each option updates the details in the timeline with the relevant information.
Down at the bottom of the interface is the navigation bar. This is where you can jump to the week view, radar map, and alerts. While most of those are pretty self explanatory, I do want to touch on Dark Sky’s alert system, because it’s actually awesome.
Most weather apps out there will notify you when bad weather is approaching, and similarly, most will let you add temperature data to the notification bar. Dark Sky takes both of those things to the next level.
The notification option basically adds a horizontal version of the timeline directly to the shade, which is super convenient…assuming you don’t mind a rather large notification taking up part of the shade. It’s very useful if weather is important to you though.
And the notification system is solid, because you can have Dark Sky send you daily weather alerts with details for that day (or the next day if the notification is set for after 6:00 PM). You can even set up custom alerts to let you know when certain user-defined variables are met. For example, I can get a notification if the wind speed is going to be above 15 miles per hour, which is the point where i know going cycling is going to be a lot more difficult because headwinds suck. It’s a very cool system.
You can also set quiet times for notifications. If you already use automatic Do Not Disturb settings on your phone, the app should automatically respect those, so there’s no real reason to enable both. it won’t hurt anything if you do though.
Finally, there’s the “report” option. This is basically a place where you can report your local conditions, which helps Dark Sky keep things as accurate as possible. You can even allow your phone’s pressure sensors to send details to Dark Sky to help improve forecasts. That’s cool!
Anyway, if you like hyperlocal results, Dark Sky is your huckleberry. Give it a shot, and don’t be afraid of the three dollar subscription model. It’s worth it, but the app is very useful even without it.
Weather apps have been a staple on every mobile operating system since apps became a thing, and there are a ton out there to choose from. This is by no means a definitive list, and it may not have your favorite app on it, but it isn’t meant to–it’s just meant to help you find a really good app without reading through an epic tome of reviews. Now get out there and enjoy the sun.