The Best Weather Apps for Android

Science 13 Nov 2017
The Best Weather Apps for Android

Weather Timeline has been one of our favorite weather apps for years, and that continues to this day. The app, first released with the Android 5.0 Lollipop redesign of Android, uses material design and card layouts to make both an intuitive and gorgeous weather application for Android. With plenty of Android weather apps designed for Android 2.x or 4.x phones, it’s nice to see an app clearly designed for this generation of user interface. Even as Android moves toward a newer design language with reworked navigation menus, Weather Timeline continues to feel modern in daily use. But that’s not all: Weather Timeline also happens to be one of the most accurate applications on Android we’ve tested. Let’s take a look at what makes this app our top pick for weather forecasts.

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First, a deep dive into the design of the app. A quick look at any modern operating system will tell you that flat design is in vogue right now. Windows 8 used a flat, tile-based system designed for touch interfaces, and though that was subsequently scaled back for Windows 10, it’s still largely based on that same flat, layered appearance. iOS and MacOS, both originally designed with skeuomorphism in mind, have been through major redesigns that brought a flatter, more modern appearance to the interface. And it’s no secret that Android has evolved over the years, with Google’s material design guidelines turning three years old just last month. Material was designed with a card-based, layered interface in mind that used physical object like paper as a direct inspiration, and that’s on full display in Weather Timeline. If you’ve ever used Google Now or nearly any other modern Google application, you’ll be familiar with the ideas behind Weather Timeline’s design.

When you load into the app, Weather Timeline opens on a list of your saved locations, with your current GPS-located position at the top of the list and your saved locations following. Weather Timeline is an app designed for you to save multiple places, whether it be the city you work in, a place you travel to frequently, the town your extended family lives in, etc. There’s seemingly no limit on how many locations you can store in your list, though most users presumably won’t keep more than four or five at a time. These cards are animated, similar to live tiles in Windows 10, with diagrams that show rising or falling pressure, along with alerts for precipitation alternating with each location’s state on the card. Some cards have special designs imprinted on them; for example, New York has the Statue of Liberty displayed as an outline, and Paris, France has the Eiffel Tower. Strangely, some major city locations, including Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the US, don’t feature a special design. Each of the cards are also assigned a specific color, such as blue for rain, grey for clouds, and yellow for sun, making it easy to identify the current weather condition for each location. You can swipe cards away, though you’ll have to re-add the locations back to your device to view the weather again.

Tapping on each card loads the weather information for each location. You’ll find alerts at the top of the list, with a breakdown of current conditions closely following. Weather alerts can include everything from flood warnings to wind advisories and even tornado watches; basically, anything pushed out by the National Weather Service as a piece of information you need to know will show up here. The current conditions card shows you the chance of precipitation, information on the speed and direction of the wind, sunset and sunrise times, humidity percentages, and of course, the actual and feels-like temperatures outside. Every card can be expanded or opened by tapping on it; for example, the weather alert card opens a full description of the press release pushed by NWS, along with time estimates until that warning ends. The current conditions card can expand with more or less information, though it doesn’t open in a new page like the weather alerts do.

Weather Timeline isn’t just a name; it’s also an apt descriptor for how the app is designed in general usage. Weather Timeline sorts the information for each location in order from present to distant future. With the alerts on top of the page—the information you need to know—closely followed by the current conditions card, Weather Timeline then uses lines along the side of the app to sort the information. You’ll find a precipitation chart, beautifully animated with water, displaying the duration and strength of rain over the next hour. If it’s currently raining, you’ll see a display that says it’ll end within a certain amount of time. Need more specific information than that? Drag your finger across the chart, and you’ll see a display showing specific inches per hour of rainfall. Below that, you begin to move into the future: the next 23 hours are displayed with a quick blurb about the forecast, and you can view hour-by-hour predictions by tapping on the card. Further down the list is your weekly forecast, along with another quick description of the future weather conditions, and multiple cards for each of the next seven days.

At the top of the chart, you’ll also find three icons at the top of your phone screen that display options for graphs and maps, along with a menu icon for settings. The graph option is gorgeous, using black and white diagrams for temperature and precipitation with wind thrown in for good measure. You can view the changes in temperature on a daily basis, changes in the wing speeds, the humidity, dew point, and air pressure, all using some gorgeous design that puts older weather apps to shame. The map view represents a radar, displaying the past several hours of precipitation over your selected area. This might represent the one issue we took with the app: it seemed to have some trouble loading in precipitation quickly when playing back the past. Likewise, the app wasn’t able to present a future view of the radar, something apps like The Weather Channel have been able to do for quite some time. The ability to select from multiple layers, however, including rain clouds and temperature, is a nice touch.

We mentioned above that the app seems to be more reliable than any other weather app we tested in this review, and that’s thanks to the weather service providing information to Weather Timeline. Every weather app on this list uses two or three distinct sources to pull their weather information, and Weather Timeline is no different. When you dive into the settings menu, you’ll find information on the data source provider, which recommends Dark Sky, but also provides Weather Underground, WR.no, OpenWeatherMap, World Weather Online, and SMHI, a Swedish provider. Dark Sky, for the unfamiliar, began life as an iOS-exclusive application before moving to Android in 2016. They source their data independently, marketing themselves as a hyperlocal weather company, and their information allows you to get up-to-the-minute reports on what’s happening with the weather in your area. It’s incredible powerful, and before Dark Sky officially arrived on Android, Weather Timeline was one of the few ways to use the data source. Dark Sky’s Android app isn’t bad, but we prefer the look and feel of Weather Timeline. Plus, it’s cheaper.

Weather Timeline is fairly customizable. In addition to changing the data source for your weather, you can also change the look and feel of the application. The app has a full set of theme options, including bright, material, neutral, classic, and our favorite, dark, which allow you to change up how the app is presented on your phone. You can change the icon set on your phone as well, and the amount of icons is insane. You can choose between animated and static options, material and monochrome options, and even icons from specialized creators like Climacons, GraphBerry, and DuckDuckGo. You can also control the look and feel of widgets and notifications, customize how often the apps shows cards on your Android Wear-based smartwatch, and change the display the app opens on when choosing a location.

Unlike many of the apps on this list, Weather Timeline isn’t free. It is cheap and affordable though, even for anyone on a budget. Priced at only $1.49 for the app without ads or in-app purchases, this is the nicest weather app you can purchase that will only run you the price of a large coffee at your local gas station to use for free. The power of this app makes it one of our favorites on the market today, with a reliable weather source like Dark Sky behind it, and a great design that can be customized to fit your needs. This app has saved numerous users from getting stuck in the rain with its powerful notification prediction system, and looks fantastic on both LCD-based displays (with its white-based themes) and OLED displays (with dark and black themes that turn off the pixels on the display entirely). Overall, you can’t go wrong with Weather Timeline unless you absolutely refuse to drop a buck and some change on an app. For most users, this app is worth far more than what developer Sam Ruston asks for it, and we give it the full TechJunkie recommendation.

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