Weather Live for iPhone lets you have it your way

A full-featured weather app too keen to upsell

When I think of weather apps for the iPhone I tend to imagine something like Apple's own Weather app: a widget-like window that shows the temperature wherever I am. Since the introduction of the iPhone many developers and weather organisations have tried to tackle the shortcomings of the default app in many different ways. Just to give you an idea of how prolific this has been, Weather has a category on its own in the App Store.

It seems like the trend these days is to settle for simple but smart ways of displaying data. We've left the days when we loved being overwhelmed with meteorologic information to move to a "what's happening right now" in my area.

Why do it write then about Weather Live today? Developed by Apalon, Weather Live was introduced almost a year ago to please those who wanted an Android-like display of date and weather. I know this might sound as heresy, but comparing screenshots of the early versions and the Samsung and HTC home screens at the time, there are some obvious cues.

The app has recently received an update that introduces new display modes, and more importantly, the option to customise them to your taste. But lets start from the beginning. Using your current location, the app can identify your whereabouts and automatically display the forecast in your area. This is convenient if you live in one place but have to commute somewhere else to work or study.

There's also the option to type the location manually, but here the results quite poor for Europe. When I type a UK postcode, the app recognises the address and displays the current borough it belongs, however, the app throws an error message. Typing major cities works fine although it could not recognise mid-sized cities in Spain and France — this can be changed selecting the secondary weather data provider in the settings.

It's all about how you present the information

Again, Weather Live's default view reminds me a lot of some Android devices with a clock and a bright sun behind. The standard option is packed with data including current temperature and 'Feels like' estimation, minimum and maximum of the day, precipitation forecast with a graphic and word, date, day of the week and time, estimated humidity, precipitations, pressure and visibility. A tiny compass also shows the wind speed and its direction. This is all neatly contained in the top widget.

Below you have the short-term and long-term forecast, which essentially gives you the predicted temperature for every three hours of the day or the minimum and maximum temperature for the week ahead in the latter.

What happens if this is too much for you? Accessing the app settings allows you to customise the view to your own preference. The first four are variants of the full view I just described. The Text Only view displays all the information on plain white text (Helvetica) on a moving animated image. This isn't particularly exciting but it gives some dynamism to the app if you happen to look at it for longer than ten seconds.

The Circle View is the brand new addition to the app. This is a black circle representing a wind rose to show the wind direction and speed at a glance. On top of it you get the current temperature in big white type along with the shiny sun, min and max, precipitation, humidity, date and time. The beauty of it is that if you aren't happy with that information, you can customise it to something you find more useful. The list includes things like sunrise and sunset, dew point, wind chill, moonrise and moonset.

This is my favourite part of the app as other alternatives I've tried overload me with information I don't really need. Weather Live allows me to customise the widget to my own preference. The fact that the app bundles several views can also be an added bonus, although I'm assuming if you're reading this review you already own a handful of weather apps.

Changing the default data provided and other unit tweaks

Another point I should highlight is that Weather Live allows you to choose where your meteorologic information comes from: choose a data provider from either AccuWeather or World Weather Online. The latter hugely improves the amount of locations available on a manual search. Weather maps are supplied by Foreca but the animations are kind of basic.

As you might have expected, the app supports different units and you can switch them easily. Celsius or Fahrenheit, mph, km/h, m/s, pressure in inches, mm or mbar.

There are also some neat tricks that come activated by default such as displaying the current weather on the app badge (which I first saw on Celsius app), as well as having alerts for different milestones such as temperatures dropping below zero.

Spammy promotional nature

The most disappointing side of Weather Live is the emphasis in promoting other apps by the same developer. I find this despicable and I'll explain why. On the standard widget view, every time you tap on the clock area it brings up a message asking you to download an alarm clock app. I found this very annoying and made me switch to the Circle View, which at least doesn't have a clock that you can accidentally tap on.

The information icon on the top right corner shows more information by the developers and the help menu. Unfortunately, the default view when loading this is a promotional page showcasing more apps by the same developer and not the actual information or help you would have expected. This is unfortunate.

To complete the in-app promotion, you can expect a dialogue box to pop up any time you launch the app asking you to go and check out other apps. Apart from the No, thanks button that closes this prompt, there's no way to disable this. Also, the app doesn't learn your choice and will show you this message multiple times. This is not the sort of behaviour you expect from a paid app.

Overall, Weather Live is a pretty app ruined by the will to sell you more things. These aren't even add-ons that improve the app, they're unrelated things that have no relation with weather whatsoever. I enjoyed the options to customise the view and select the information you want to display, which beats many of its competitors. I'd like to play more with it in the future but I'm not encouraged by its of putting spammy nature.