Apple’s iPhone Weather App Got Really, Really Good

Has Apple finally turned a corner on software quality?

Key Takeaways

  • The Weather app, Notes, and Reminders are just stellar.
  • Safari’s redesign shows the other extreme of Apple’s software quality. 
  • The iPad still doesn’t have a weather app.
iPhone with Weather app on screen

do you mockup

Apple's iPhone Weather app is fantastic—accurate, easy to read, full of information, and without the kind of mannered minimalism that plagues Apple's software design. 

In 2020, Apple bought popular weather app and weather data provider, Dark Sky. Dark Sky's gimmick was extremely accurate, hyperlocal forecasts. For example, the app could give a rain warning for your precise spot, warning you of a shower that will start in 5 minutes and last 15 minutes. In iOS 15, that technology got rolled into the iPhone weather app. It's so good that nobody needs to buy a third-party weather app. But why isn't the rest of Apple's software so good?

"The built-in weather app has so much to offer that there is no point in downloading or purchasing another weather app," iPhone user and search-company founder Marilyn Gaskell told Lifewire via email.

Whether the Weather

The iPhone Weather app does the basics, including weather warnings, hourly and daily forecasts, and so on, but it also adds in comprehensive air-quality details, an animated precipitation map that shows the rain moving over your location, plus detailed panels for humidity, UV, wind, and more. But it's the details that really make the app.

For example, when you look at the overview, which shows a list of your saved locations, each panel uses animations to deliver the current weather conditions. And when you tap to expand a panel, you get even more whimsy. If it's raining, the rain falls in the background, but it bounces and splashes as if hitting the top information panel. 

Screenshots from the iPhone Weather app.

Apple

"It's very cute how the snow piles on top of the winter storm warning box on the Apple Weather app," iPhone user Maya Patrose says on Twitter. 

You can also pull up a list of saved locations from wherever you are. If you're looking at the animated Ira map, for example, you can pop up a list of your locations in a custom popover, and each location has a little icon showing the current conditions. 

The whole app is a delight to use. It's easy to figure out, but it is never dumbed down. The design is clean, but there's none of the sweep-it-under-the-rug minimalism that you find in many of Apple's other apps. That's where many features, both seldom-used and essential, are dumped into a series of hidden menus. This keeps the main screen looking clean but ruins usability. And that kind of thinking seems to be the default at Apple these days.

Design Is How It Doesn’t Work

The best (or worst) example of this was last summer's Safari redesign, which caused so much fuss during its beta period that Apple rolled back pretty much all of the user interface changes on the iPad and Mac versions and put settings in the iPhone version to revert the biggest change (the "bottom tab bar").

On the one hand, the willingness to go big on redesigning probably the most important Mac and iOS app shows that Apple is willing to shake things up. And being able to realize mistakes and roll them back is another sign of strength. 

iPhone with Weather app map on screen

do you mockup

But anyone who tried to use the beta over the summer knows how bad those changes were. They brought no new or improved functionality and at the same time made Safari harder to use. You couldn't even know which tab was active. 

And yet, at the same time, we have the iPhone Weather app and excellent improvements to the Reminders and Notes apps, both of which now support tags and smart searches. Here's an example: In the Notes app, you can tap your ApplePencil onto the sleeping iPad to wake it to a daily note. If you write, by hand, a #tag, then the app will recognize it and group it with notes tagged the normal way. It's such a neat feature that it reminds me of when Apple was all about delight and utility. 

The trend seems to be good, although slow—a little like turning an ocean liner. And with the amazing redesign of the MacBook Pro last fall, which fixed everything wrong with the last few versions, things are looking good.

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