Living where I do, we have two seasons: summer and slightly less summer. Still, I like to be prepared for the two weeks a year it gets cold enough to put on a coat and ear muffs, while the rest of the country calls us pansies and says it’s only “sweater weather.” My foul weather preparations include not one but three weather apps, and that’s on top of the iOS default.
I’ve got to have one for radar and all that fancy stuff, and because I live in New Orleans, I also need a hurricane weather app. My third app is always something that can give me a quick glance at the weather right now, while looking a lot better than the other two. That’s where the good looking Solar : Weather comes in — but is it all beauty and no brains?
How’s the Weather?
The first thing to notice about Solar : Weather is the attractive interface. A soft gradient lets you know the time of day; warm colors for daytime and cool for night. Solar lets you know the precise time and the date, whether it’s sunny or clear, and temperature. If Solar is using Location Services to figure out where you are, you’ll get a neat little compass, too. Other than that though, the screen is pretty barren, which is okay because I just want to know the temperature and whether to grab the umbrella or the sunscreen.
To see the weather for another location, swipe to the left and enter the city name or zip code. You can search for locations outside of the United States, too. When your city pops up in the list, tap it get the local weather. You can add as many cities and towns as you like, sometimes down to the neighborhood, and they can be accessed by swiping right or left.
The three day forecast is accessed by tapping and dragging the screen downwards. You’ll get the high and low temperatures for the next few days and a pictogram indicating whether it will be sunny or rainy. When you’re finished, take your finger off the screen, and the current weather pops back up. A word of caution: if you start dragging from the top of the screen, you’ll find you keep pulling down Notification Center.
From the current weather view, slowly drag upwards to see the hourly report. That’s not quite right though, in that this is less an hourly report and more a minute-to-minute forecast. As you drag upwards, an analog clock in the upper right will appear and begin moving forward in time while the digital clock pushes forwards as well. The temperature and atmospheric forecast will change as time progresses over the next twenty-four hours. Release, and Solar returns to the current time and temperature.
A pinch will present a quick snapshot grid of all the locations you’ve saved in Solar. To access the settings, tap the gear in the upper right of the grid view. You can adjust your units, whether you’d like to use Fahrenheit or Celsius, and toggle “Feels Like” to get an idea of whether it feels colder or warmer than it actually is. There are sharing buttons as well, but you won’t be sharing your weather, just a link to the app.
A Few Things I Didn’t Get
I had vibration turned on from the moment I started using the app, but I never felt a thing. I can’t imagine a reason Solar would need to vibrate, but the setting is there so it should do something. Likewise, I turned on “Feels Like” pretty early on, too. Unfortunately, that never seemed to work, either.
Since Solar went to the trouble of adding share buttons, I sure would have liked a way to share my current weather. Even the rain has its own Twitter account in New Orleans, so if it’s a real steamer or there’s a storm pounding, it would be nice to post something a little more interesting than an ad for a weather app.
But it Sure Did Work
The biggest problem with a weather app is inaccuracy, and I was worried that all those good looks meant Solar was going to be a lightweight. While Solar seemed to be close to the current temperature and forecast for my area, it didn’t seem to be quite right. Looking three days ahead, Solar veered off by several degrees and a whole lot of clouds. A weather app’s no good if it can’t tell you the weather, and I had seen some App Store reviews expressing these same concerns.
Then I got wise and checked Solar’s FAQ; it’s pulling its forecast from Weather Underground. When I checked their website, I saw the numbers matched up perfectly. For the day’s forecast, Solar was only a degree or two off my usual go to, and it wasn’t until several days out I noticed anything peculiar. Ideally, Solar would let you choose from a couple of major weather sites, but barring that, relying on Weather Underground isn’t a dealbreaker for me.
Solar turned out to be more than just a pretty face. Though initially wary because I’d seen so many reviews faulting Solar for its inaccuracy, I couldn’t find any evidence of that; on the contrary, its current forecast was spot-on. In addition, Solar makes it easy to check the weather for several cities quickly with just a few swipes.
More than that, Solar lets me check the weather in an attractive interface. As often as I look to see how hot it is or how much rain we’re going to get, I should get something nice to look at while I do it. While it obviously lacks things like radar and in-depth analysis, that’s not what I want when I’m checking to see if I need flip-flops or galoshes for the day. Solar really gave me all I need for fast forecasts and quick weather updates in a well-designed package.