Dark Sky for iOS review: A predictive weather app done right

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The App Store carries lots of weather apps, many of which do the same exact thing: forecasting the upcoming days and hours. Dark Sky isn’t one of those apps, as the company can tell users what the clouds can bring in the next hour. The company’s mission is to separate itself from other weather apps by focusing on one core idea: weather radar. Something we feel the application did pretty well.

Setup

Once you launch the app, not much has to be done. The application will ask for your permission to use GPS location anywhere you are at the moment. Granting the app access to your specific location allows for it to predict the weather, which is its core functionality. Remember, GPS permissions can always be changed within the iPhone settings.

Interface

When you first lay your eyes on Dark Sky, you’ll notice its simplistic and unique design. The app is divided into three main areas. 

On the top lies a graph that illustrates the activity of a storm and the possibilities of precipitation over a 60-minute period. In fact, when we tried to use it in Hartford, CT, the app wasn’t able to break down the precipitation because of clear skies. This prompts a Dark Sky message: Clear skies are boring. Tap here to view a storm in [some location where there’s an interesting storm]; we were able to see how the precipitation feature worked in the town of Au Sable, Mi, due to bad weather conditions in that area.

The middle area shows big letters that represents weather conditions right now and what to expect in the next hour. You can flip up that panel to see the full day’s forecast.

Lastly, the bottom area is used to choose your current location or manually enter a different one.

Features

The best part about the Dark Sky app is its RADAR feature, as it gives a pretty cool dark visual of the state you live in. Moreover, when you use the RADAR option you can take advantage of its pinch-to-zoom functionality, which gives you an even closer look into the surrounding cities and towns.

In RADAR mode you have the ability to not only see where the clouds are forming, but how a  storm looks in between individual radar snapshots. This kind of radar animation puts the Dark Sky application ahead of most apps or sites that offer a much inferior service.

That being said, we would have loved to see a feature like push notifications as alerts. This would be great for things like upcoming thunderstorms. Even though landscape view is available for the iPad, we would have appreciated the ability to view the app in landscape on the iPhone, albeit, it’s a simple but necessary novelty when it comes to a better user experience.

Performance

The application didn’t have much lag or stutter when jumping from one spot to another, but we did experience a force close. Locking onto a location is a breeze when signed into WiFi, but it can become somewhat of a journey when using a 3G connection (as expected).

We also noticed that the app doesn’t stay locked to your location once you bounce out of the app, or once the phone goes to sleep. Instead, it refreshes itself, locks back on to a spot and offers a new location for viewing precipitation (only if your area has clear skies).

Conclusion

This is an adequate start for a mobile application that less than a year ago, was a part of a Kickstarter campaign. Dark Sky will set you back $3.99; we know, it’s a bit pricey but we feel it’s the perfect app for weather geeks out there. Although the app still has its growing pains (being that it’s still relatively new), it offers a core feature we haven’t seen from other weather applications. We hope to see more surprises from Dark Sky in the near future, minor tweaks for smoothness and landscape view to the iPhone would be welcomed additions at this point.

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