Monday, 28 March 2016

Windows 10 System Apps Review: Weather

Note: This page is a review which forms part of the post Windows 10 System Apps Review

What’s this app for?

This is your one-stop shop for finding out the current weather conditions and forecast in your part of the world, as well as anywhere else on the planet that you’ve got a particular interest in.

Does it do the job it was primarily designed for?

Umm. Well, the fact that I don’t use this app at all when it comes to weather forecasts should say it all. There’s some lovely aspects to this app such as fantastic live tile support, beautifully animated and relevant background graphics behind the forecast, and great quick-access/snapshot of favourite locations. Sadly none of these are enough for me to bother with it on a daily basis, except that the live tile looks cool in my start menu. There’s no doubt though that the wealth and variety of content is very good in this app. It’s just that it’s delivery of that information isn’t up to the same standard.

As you can see above, the default view (with the hamburger menu expanded) tells you right away what’s going on in your chosen location, as well as what’s coming up in the proceeding days and hours. It’s a great one-stop visual guide to what’s going on. I’m not sure I have a lot of confidence in the accuracy but it’s usually good enough in this aspect. After all, these are forecasts, not guaranteed predictions. The initial amination you get when you first land on the home screen is pretty cool, although on a rainy day I’m not sure I really want such a visual reminder. If anyone out there gets fed up with all the usual waffling in forecasts, they’ll love the ‘Day Details’ which you can view as you keep scrolling down the home screen. Everything is explained in a few short sharp sentences. Certainly this won’t leave you guessing, although I’m the kind of person who would rather have an essay than a headline. Even further down the screen is yet more useful information such as sunrise/sunset times, moonrise/moonset times, moon phase, precipitation/humidity/UV index and Max Wind values for the current day. Lastly there’s precipitation and temperature stats for this day in terms of historical records. Certainly there’s a wealth of useful and less useful (yet interesting) information here, but scrolling down for it all is pretty tedious on a desktop PC. Plus, there’s a section all for historical data in the app, so why put this information here? Oh well.

The next section available in this app to you from the main hamburger menu is ‘maps’. Here you can see temperature, precipitation, satellite and cloud cover for your neck of the world, as well as the ability to scroll chronologically through the next 24-ish hours to see how these four features change over time. It’s nothing revolutionary but useful. There’s a zoom button on the map but for some reason it doesn’t zoom in all that well. Some of the maps (the temperature one especially) looks particularly blurry. Still, this is a decent stab at this facility, although it certainly could do with something that makes it look a lot more polished.

Next up off the hamburger menu is ‘historical weather’ which strangely is just a list of months in your chosen location, along with temperature and rainfall records. It’s interesting, but there’s hardly enough information here to warrant its own section in the menu.

‘Places’ is the next option from the main menu, and probably the one part of the app I actually load it up to look at on any regular basis. Here you can add favourite places from all around the world and get a snapshot view of their current weather conditions all on the same screen as your other favourite places. I really love this. It’s simple, useful and pretty. Clicking on any of the places will change the app so that the Home, Maps and historical data sections are now reflecting that location. It’s a quick way to check out the weather in locations you have an interest in. You don’t have to set favourite locations just to check out weather around the world as there is a search box up the top right of the app that’s always present. This allows you to search for a location, select it from a list and have the app display that location’s weather whenever you feel like it.

The final option from the menu is for ‘news’. As you’d expect this is the section that provides you with all the latest weather news that’s been pulled from relevant news sources from your part of the world. Unlike the sports app, all the articles I’ve clicked on here do open in the app’s reading view. Thus providing a consistent and neater way to read. There’s a few slideshows and video articles in amongst actual textual content but hardly a sniff of any advertisements anywhere in this app. The only downer in this section is that the actual content is months old. I’m assuming this is a bug in the current version of the app. There’s no manual refresh page button either sadly. I don’t remember noticing old content before, so perhaps just a bug at this current time.

Settings wise … there are some! Woohoo. Don’t get too excited though. As well as choosing the units of temperature for the app to display in, you can change the default launch location for the app, which is highly useful as there are limitations to Windows 10 detecting your location automatically. So being able to tell it where you are is critical and very much appreciated.

What’s the alternative?

There’s no other weather information built into Windows 10, but of course there are a wealth of apps in the store from 3rd parties such as The Weather Channel or Accuweather to choose from. Alternatively, and what I often do, there are numerous reputable websites to find weather information, such as The Met Office here in the UK.

Hit, Miss, or Maybe?

Maybe; the variety and amount of information available in this app is very good. There is a gorgeous live tile and some lovely features but there’s something a little unfinished about the app in some areas when it comes to its Maps and Historical Data sections. What also doesn’t help it is all the scrolling on the main screen, which gives the impression they really didn’t think about desktop users. Plus there’s the rather basic manner in which it delivers its forecast. On a desktop PC most users will not bother with this app and instead go straight to their favourite weather related website which will deliver a more well-rounded experience.

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