Dark Sky is one of the few apps I use that I rely on. I’ve used it most days for over a year; it cost £2.49, a princely sum for a mobile app, but has paid for itself time and time again in predicting when it’s going to rain and for how long.
I first came across it on an up-and-comers piece in the New York Times, or possibly the Washington Post, last year. It was claimed by several reviewers that for quick trips on foot, when you weren’t sure if the heavens were about to release a month’s rainfall in seven minutes, it predicted the likelihood with uncanny accuracy. And saved you from getting absolutely rodded with rain.
Bollocks, I thought. If the iPhone has taught us anything, it is that we love weather and love knowing what might happen with it in the next day, 48 hours or two weeks. There are an avalanche of near-pointless weather apps in the App Store, so many that developers have taken a zen approach of minimalistic design in order to distinguish themselves from one another, dispensing entirely with numbers and icons and simply using colours to reflect the conditions. Cute, but pointless. I assumed this app was another fabled attempt to beautify the mundanity of weather by employing an overpaid UX agency twerp with horizontal hair and purple, skinny jeans.
But Dark Sky doesn’t attempt to forecast miles into the future – just as well because even in 2014, this is the darkest of scientific arts. It looks ahead by 24 hours and shows you where the rain currently is, on a map – a normal map with contours and boundaries and not coloured shades of blue and green and purple. It then animates where the rain is likely to be, and using your brain you can see whether it’s going to hit you or not. Or, in my case, whether it’s going to screw up my day’s cricket (I used to use rainradar.co.uk for this, as do most cricket journalists, but Dark Sky is infinitely more accurate and useful).
Their latest update is out today and it makes an invaluable app now beautiful, along with temperature displays and other neat additions such as finding out where the nearest storm is relative to your location. The more you zoom out, to see the country as a whole, the further back in time you can “view” how grizzly the weather has been. And if it’s about to wazz down near you in the next 20 minutes or so, you’ll be notified.
This will probably be the only geeky app-love post I write this year, as most of the others I use add little but stress and annoyance to my life, but Dark Sky is the absolute bomb – especially for a country mesmerised by the gloomy grey blanket above our heads.