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The Great Android Weather App Review

Part 5: WeatherBug

OK, here's another very popular weather app for Android and another company that also provides weather services for others. This app has received over 10 million downloads according to Google Play and from digging around Google+ it seems to be one that people like using. One user told me to look no further than WeatherBug plus the average Google Play review is 4.3 which is bloody great. So I should be impressed right? Wrong.

I've had this app installed for the best part of 3 weeks now and have had some weird issues with accuracy at home. Wet when it's dry? Cloudy when it's clear? This happens a lot. I'd heard other people tell me how accurate it was so this was a real head scratcher. When I'm in the office though it is nearly always spot on and when conditions change at work this app seems to update quite quickly unlike some others which may be a few hours behind (Met Office, get to the back of the class). Anyway, I think I've found out why. I live in Calne, Wiltshire and WeatherBug is using data from RAF Fairford which is over 20 miles away as the crow flies. Firstly I'm surprised there isn't a closer weather station plus there might be a reasonable chance that the weather 20 miles away is going to be different to here. Now you might be OK, chances you will be as Calne isn't exactly the centre of the universe right? but Swindon is closer and it's a big place. Odd.

Anyway, let's move on. The app itself is packed with features. You get current conditions, a 7-day forecast, a detailed, textual forecast plus support for multiple locations. There is also a really neat statistics page that displays sunrise/sunset, precipitation, pressure, etc. You also get a few pollen forecast, golf forecast (groan!) and other more gimmicky features (common to other apps and I'm sure some will find them useful). There is also a map, radar image, daily video and a page of pictures of your location (which doesn't work for me sadly).

The UI is OK but It's not going to win any prizes. I'm not that impressed to be honest and I doubt it's changed in a while. It's a little confusing to navigate at the times and the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen is not just ugly but it's really hard to swipe it across with your finger to reveal some additional options. I only realised some extra options were available when I rotated my device to landscape mode. You know what? This UI is screaming out for a Holo makeover. Give it the full Android treatment and it would make this app so much nicer.

The app only comes with 2 widgets, a 2x1 and a 1x1, both nice enough to look at - I really like the icons used - but their size doesn't make them as useful as those supplied with other apps. The 2x1 widget will also display the weather station used which is good as most other apps only display your actual location. But both widgets insists on displaying my location as "Calne, United Kingdom" which is pointless. I know I'm in the UK thanks! And  "United Kingdom" doesn't fit on the 1x1 widget so the text gets clipped which is just messy.

Like many other weather apps you also get status bar notifications and a really, really nice looking notification panel (which displays your actual location, not the weather station location. Must of been a different developer working on that part!). This notification is the highlight of this app.

Oh, if you live in the US you get access to a "Lightning Monitoring Service" which sounds pretty cool! But I have to go and turn this off else a panel is displayed telling me it's US only ... so why it couldn't choose to leave this hidden, who knows.

Disclaimer: I'm a software developer and when I see obvious areas for simple improvements like this it gets right up my nose.

So, scoring this is going to be fun. On the one side it's detailed, packed with features and has really good status bar notification support. On the other hand my town isn't even featured, the UI is average and the widget selection is lacking. Sorry WeatherBug but you won't be on my phone for much longer.

5 out of 10 

(I know it's a low score and it flies in the face of the reviews on the Play Store but when you see what other people can do with weather apps then trust me when I say this one is distinctly average. As always your mileage may vary and if this app works for you then great!)
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Robert Caldecott's profile photoBen Buttigieg's profile photo
3 comments
 
Do you think the distance of the nearest weather station from home would explain the accuracy issues you've had with some of the other apps you've reviewed?
 
Yes. I think it might be a clue. Not all apps tell you where the data is from but many of them have web sites that do. More research is required. The Met Office uses Lyneham for example which is only a couple of miles away and this data is used by the next app I'm reviewing. 
 
The last review for Eye In Sky claims to use a weather station in Calne though but the accuracy is suspect. Mmm. 
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