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Dark Sky’s daring interface, sense of focus, and precipitation predictions have won plaudits, making it a favorite weather app with iOS users in the know — but the app’s streamlined nature ensured it remained a niche player. With the recent 4.0 version release, the developers are aiming for the mainstream.
The app has moved beyond primarily being concerned with imminent rainfall and conditions, and now boasts a greater range of forecast content; this echoes the developer’s online effort, Forecast.io, plus the interface has been "Jony Ived," so to speak. Replacing vibrant colors and a bold dark interface is comparatively stark minimalism, with an animated map sitting beneath three sliding panels you can swipe between to access the forecast for the following hour, day, or week. The changes shoot for stylish, but come off as dull. If a storm’s brewing, it becomes a pastel smudge under opaque gray panels. Worse, aspects of the layout are poorly considered. On the iPad, the panels are merged into a single screen that lacks focus and feels sparse; on the iPhone, clutter abounds.
We also found some aspects of the design troublesome. As the app loads, a pulsating circle morphs into a means to display the current temperature, with local conditions wrapped around it; but when returning to this display, it lacks the immediacy of recognizable weather symbols found on Forecast.io. Occasionally, gestures will clash between navigation designed to work with on-panel elements and the means to move between panels. And although the animated map can be zoomed and twisted, there’s no reset, the default zoom is controlled by the app rather than you, it’s sluggish to update, and it often appears blurry and lacks location markers.
Beyond the surface, though, it’s clear that an excellent weather app is fighting to get out. Rainfall predictions are beautifully animated and eerily accurate, and are now joined by a similar temperature gauge. Each forecast panel provides carefully considered information: rainfall and temperature for the hour; conditions, sky, temperature, and sunlight for the coming 24 hours (including, in a neat touch, the time of, and time until, the next sunrise/sunset); and conditions/temperatures for the coming week, which can be swiped to see an hour-by-hour indication of rainfall.
The bottom line. From an information standpoint, Dark Sky’s update is a winner. But to break into the mainstream or even best the free, online Forecast.io, the interface and manner in which information is presented need some work.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7.0 or later
Excellent forecasting. The map is great when it works. Useful information, such as hours of remaining daylight. Generally pleasant to use.
New interface swaps daring for dull. Gesture problems. Some questionable usability and design decisions. Sluggish map. Free web counterpart Forecast.io is in some ways better.