By Ed Oswald | Friday, November 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm
Okay, I have a confession to make. I am a certifiable weather weenie. I have been since I was a wee tot. If it wouldn’t have been for my horrible math and science grades, there’s a good chance I’d be sitting at a desk at the National Weather Service or AccuWeather right now instead of writing this. Alas, that didn’t happen, but I do get to review all the neat weather gadgets!
The Weather Channel has released a free mobile app which has probably set the bar for mobile weather applications. The version I’m discussing here is for the iPhone, however there is an application available for Android as well. It is now available for US customers through the App Store.
TWC Mobile is split into four sections, “Weather,” “Explore Map,” “Video,” and “Severe.” There is also a section titled “More,” although that has nothing in it other than a help file, information about the application, and links to more videos.
In the “Weather” tab, the default screen shows the current conditions for the selected area. In the iPhone application, it automatically detects the current location and displays those conditions. From there, the user can choose to view hourly conditions out to 12 hours, the standard TWC 36 hour forecast, or the 10 day outlook. A search bar across the top will allow the user to easily search for weather information for other locations.
The next screen is where this application really begins to get cool. Essentially, it is a Google map with layers. The user can choose various layers to be displayed translucently on the map. These include radar, clouds, radar and clouds, temperature, “feels like” index, 24-hour rainfall, 24-snowfall, and UV index. In addition, the user can select additional neighborhood points to be displayed on the map. These can be cities, schools, airports, parks, golf courses, or lakes.
The best part of this application though to me was the video part. If you can believe it, there is actually people out there crazy enough to have created computer applications that mimic the local forecasts seen on TV. I can’t seem to find the link to it but its out there. Anyways, no need for that anymore — this application appears to create the video on the fly, inserting the local forecast intro, the current conditions, radar, a brief video with a TWC meteorologist focused on the local area, followed by the forecast. Yes folks, this even has the catchy music and that familiar voice (TWC announcer Allan Jackson) reading it to you. I think I’ve died and went to weenie heaven, folks.
Finally, there’s the severe weather section. Unfortunately there was no severe weather in my area so I could not test this out. But according to press materials, it will display local warnings based on your location. WeatherBug’s application has attempted to do this, but definitely nowhere near to this extent. I wonder if they’ll use the promised functionality from Apple that would allow apps to receive information on standby to deliver warnings automatically? If not, consider this a feature request.
Problems? Yeah there are a few. The video application hiccuped (that’s the reason why we have no screenshot), which caused the generated video to either fail, claiming the video was in an unsupported format, or render incorrectly on playback. I’ve also heard reports that there were some crashing issues. Either way, this is an extremely impressive freshman effort from the folks at TWC.
As its promotional advertising has said, They have definitely set the bar for all future weather applications. It’s earned its spot in my daily routine.