Extremely Accurate Weather Forecasts With SkyMotion

I’ve reviewed more weather apps than I care to count in the past several months, many of which I sincerely believe to be fantastic. They’ve become the new design playground for fledgling iOS developers, and frankly, the weather apps cycling through my home screen have been stunning.

That being said, most of them have the same essential functionality — daily, weekly or, rarely, hourly forecasts. Generally speaking, as weather apps have become more minimalist in design, so too has their data. Solar provides a three-day forecast at most, while Conditions doesn’t have much more information than the current temperature and an icon. That’s what makes SkyMotion interesting. It’s a different take on weather forecasts, featuring real-time data and ground-level data integration. Read on to find out whether or not SkyMotion is for you.

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Reporting the Details

SkyMotion isn’t looking to give you weather in the most minimalist way possible, but it provides more information than just about any other weather app I’ve tried. SkyMotion offers a forecast and what they call a Nowcast. The Nowcast is unique in that it updates every five minutes and is present as soon as you open up the app. It reports specifically on whether or not there will be any precipitation for the next two hours.

Swiping to the left on top of the Nowcast takes you to the short-term forecasts. The app also calls these Nowcasts, but I’m giving them a different name in this review for clarity’s sake. Unlike most apps, the short-term forecasts don’t break down temperature, but again report on the likelihood of precipitation in really straight-forward terms (like “No Rain”).

SkyMotion's Nowcast is unique.

SkyMotion’s Nowcast is unique.

Short-term forecasts are reported in increments of one, five, fifteen and thirty minutes. Yes, you read that right: SkyMotion can tell you about the odds or precipitation sixty seconds from now.

The app also offers a twenty-four hour forecast on the bottom of the screen, but puts emphasis there on upcoming temperatures and weather conditions. Of course, if you look closely at all the additional information, you can also find out how many millimetres of rain (or snow) you can expect.

A Different Take on Weather

SkyMotion’s reports are way more detailed than most. I’m the kind of guy who throws on shorts and a V-neck without looking out the window most days, so the app remained lost to me for my first couple days of use. But when I went out with a friend for dinner one night and mentioned I was testing out a new, insanely-detailed weather app, she asked to try it and instantly understood what I did not.

"The frizz indicator," as it's been dubbed.

“The frizz indicator,” as it’s been dubbed.

“Wow,” she said. She swiped to the app’s short-term forecast and stared at the up-to-the-minute forecast for a moment. “This is great. They should market this to women; it’s like a hair frizz indicator. I need this. This could have saved me from my bad hair day yesterday.”

That’s when it dawned on me that this developer is really on to something. SkyMotion is incredibly detailed, but also unique enough with its details that it’s going to be perfect for a demographic of people whose lives are greatly affected by rain. Construction workers, landscapers and, yes, women with potentially frizzy hair, could really benefit not just from the app’s information, but its obvious presentation of said data.

A Humidex warning — this was a first for me on my iPhone.

A Humidex warning — this was a first for me on my iPhone.

What makes SkyMotion a nice experience is that it’s not just about the concrete data it’s grabbing, but it’s also presented in an easily digestible way. If it’s going to rain, the app makes it obvious. The past couple days have been over forty degrees Celsius here with humidity, and a large on-screen exclamation point led me to straight to Environment Canada’s Humidex warning. This is the only weather app I’ve ever tried that’s ever included information like that. At least, it’s the only one that made the information easy to find.

Crowd-sourcing Weather Updates

That being said, the app doesn’t end there. With a simple tap, it’s easy to submit weather conditions in your area to SkyMotion’s servers. I’ve done it a couple of times — not because the Nowcast was inaccurate, but because I wanted to let them know it was accurate. I suspect the crowd-sourced weather updates, which I’ve seen called “ground-level data integration,” are a big part of the reason SkyMotion is the most accurate weather app I’ve ever used.

This is one part of the app I love conceptually and visually.

This is one part of the app I love conceptually and visually.

I live in an area of Ontario (Canada) that’s largely surrounded by the Great Lakes. As a result of that and a few other contributing factors, we have some of the most unpredictable weather I’ve ever heard of. Even the most accurate of weather apps occasionally report thunderstorms on sunny days and vice versa, often getting the current weather completely wrong in the process.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to report that SkyMotion’s weather updates have been, in my testing, completely accurate. I started using the app as we wrapped up a week of on-again, off-again thunderstorms. While my other weather apps continued to expect more rain, SkyMotion accurately told me when it was over. It’s also the only app I have that’s always consistent with my home’s outdoor thermometer. Clearly, it’s highly localized weather reporting pays off.

Room for Growth

That being said, the most accurate data in the world isn’t all a weather app needs anymore. From a design perspective, I’d love to see some changes in the app. Aesthetically, the app reminds me of the iOS 6 weather app. It’s too dark and dreary for my liking.

The user interface is a little dark, so even the Apple Maps integration gives it a splash of much-needed colour.

The user interface is a little dark, so even the Apple Maps integration gives it a splash of much-needed colour.

Also, it uses floating widgets to display information. I’m not a fan of this kind of design; I always wonder why information has to seemingly “float” over a black background. It just doesn’t do much for me. It’s not that the design is problematic, I just think it’s dull.

As well, the app is free with an in-app purchase to remove the banner at the bottom. The in-app purchase is $2.99. I don’t think that’s terribly pricey, but I’d almost rather the app cost $2.99 in the App Store. I’m sure all the people who will download the app at no-cost pricing must be enticing, but I generally believe the active users — those who will continually report their weather conditions in case of inaccuracies and make SkyMotion their primary weather app — will happily pay.

Leave the Umbrella. Take the Cannoli.

SkyMotion is a great app with highly accurate localized weather reporting. Because it doesn’t include weekly forecasts, I’m not sure it’s for everybody. I’m keeping it on my iPhone because its forecasts are so accurate. Sometimes, I need to know what the next two hours are going to look like — especially for outdoor photo shoots — and my other apps aren’t anywhere near as accurate as this.

If you work outdoors, want to avoid walking the dog in the rain or even have problems with frizzy hair, SkyMotion might be the cure. If you don’t need weekly forecasts, there’s no reason it couldn’t replace your current weather app based on weather data alone. It’s that accurate. Highly recommended.


Summary

SkyMotion is extremely accurate and offers a great twist on traditional weather forecasts with its focus on precipitation, but I wish its design wasn't quite so drab.

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