BBC Weather: Accurate Forecasting

Does the iPhone really need another weather app? Well, when it comes to the availability of weather apps for the iPhone: it never rains, it pours! If you are having trouble choosing, then the BBC Weather app it’s certainly worth having a look at, especially as it has been made Editor’s Choice in the iPhone app store.

But does it stand up to our scrutiny? Let’s find out after the jump.

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Go Weather

Upon launching the BBC Weather app for the first time, you’re invited to use your current location. This probably makes sense, though you don’t have to. If you enter the app without giving it permission to use your current location, you can simply enter it manually.

If you do not mind the app using your current location, determined by Wi-Fi and GPS positioning, this is going to save you time — especially if your daily routine means that you are traveling to different places.

The Interface

At the top left of the screen we have the three horizontal bars that denotes a menu beneath the main interface. This is using the “deck of cards” metaphor that is becoming increasing popular in iPhone apps at the moment. It’s not a metaphor that I particularly like, but given its popularity, it is something that I’m going to have to live with.

Menu and refresh options in the BBC Weather app.

Menu and refresh options in the BBC Weather app.

To the right-hand side, at the top, we have a little circular arrow which allows us to prompt for an update to the information currently displayed. Perhaps useful if you are in an area where the weather is particularly changeable.

The Main Panel

I can tell if this is the location being determined by Wi-Fi and GPS positioning as it will have a little arrow symbol to the left of the location name. If I scroll to the right, I can see an hourly breakdown of what the weather is doing. If I am doing something at five o’clock, I can see what the weather is going to be like.

The main panel, giving a weather summary, in the BBC Weather app.

The main panel, giving a weather summary, in the BBC Weather app.

If I tap on a particular time of day, I am given further detail about humidity, visibility, pressure, wind direction and wind speed. Tap on it again and I go back to the hourly overview.

The Lower Panel

On the panel at the bottom of the screen we can scroll left and right through the days of the week. The forecast is available for five days including today.

The lower panel, giving a daily summary, in the BBC Weather app.

The lower panel, giving a daily summary, in the BBC Weather app.

If I want to see what the weather is doing at the weekend, I simply tap my chosen day I can scroll through an hourly breakdown of the weather for that day in the main panel.

The Menu

Click on the three horizontal bars at the top left to reveal the screen beneath, where it is possible to enter new locations for which you require weather.

Entering new locations in the BBC Weather app.

Entering new locations in the BBC Weather app.

I can start typing in the name of a location and a drop down menu of candidate locations is presented. I can choose from one in this list or finish typing in the full name of my location and then select it from the list. The location is now added to my favourite places.

Editing the Locations

It is possible to reorder the locations by clicking the edit button and then dragging the locations into the desired order.

Editing the locations in the BBC Weather app

Editing the locations in the BBC Weather app

To delete a location, simply swipe right to reveal the delete button and tap delete to remove it.

Editing the Measurement Units

Being that it is that I live in the United Kingdom, I have grown up with a strange mix of metric and imperial units. I like my temperatures in (metric) degrees Celsius, and my wind speeds in (Imperial) miles per hour.

Editing the settings.

Editing the settings.

My American friends talk about temperatures in degrees fahrenheit, which makes no sense to me. If ºF is your thing, then you can click on Settings (the menu item with the cog symbol) to change your desired units of measurement.

I suspect my European friends will opt for ºC and kilometres per hour. Either way, the flexibility is there to suit your preference.

Back to the Weather

Having entered a number of locations, if we return to the main screen, this is where I now have one criticism of the BBC Weather app. Given that both the main and lower panels swipe left and right to change times of day and days of the week respectively, I would expect that the location panel also swipe left and right to scroll through my locations. Unexpectedly, the interface does not work like this. Instead, I have to scroll up and down to change locations, scrolling a screen at a time. It’s a minor complaint and certainly not a show-stopper, but my feeling is that it is out of kilter with the gestures in the rest of the interface.

Conclusion

The BBC Weather app achieves the holy grail of presenting large amounts of complex data in an easy to view and simple way. A hard thing to achieve successfully. Remembering my original question, does the iPhone need another weather app? The answer is a resounding no. Does the iPhone need the BBC Weather app, on the other hand? I would say that has to be an emphatic yes!

If there could only be one weather app, the BBC Weather app would be it. If it could be defined as the default weather app on the iPhone, my sun would be shining. Since Apple currently rains on that parade, my advice to you is to ignore the default iPhone weather app, delete Forecast.io, Yahoo Weather and all the others and use the BBC Weather app instead. The outlook is fantastic!


Summary

An easy to use and understand weather app that does a fantastic job of making detailed and complex information simple to access and understand.

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