Dark Sky recently hit the App Store, and I teamed up with weather guru and former RWW webmaster Jared Smith to test it out.No one has figured out the right formula for the weather app yet. Phones come stocked with basic forecast apps with cartoony icons, but today’s mobile devices have more potential than that. One ambitious effort called
Kickstarter-launched app for iPhone and iPad that zeroes in on the basic use case for a weather app on a mobile device. It uses your current location by default, but you can view the weather anywhere (U.S. only for now). Dark Sky does away with the complex modeling (and guesswork) involved in forecasting the weather and focuses on the question you ask of your phone as you’re walking out the door: Is it raining right now, and will it rain soon?Dark Sky is a
Its UI is totally novel. On the phone, it shows a timeline with a graph of the precipitation over the next hour. Below, in huge text, it says what’s happening now and what will happen this hour. A tab at the top reveals a cool, animated radar view that gives a general sense of the precipitation, and you can scroll back and forth in time to see what it predicts for the short term. It’s a pretty powerful interface for a quick little phone app. On the iPad, the radar is visible from the main screen.
“For our initial release, we’re just focusing on precipitation and getting that right,” says Jay LaPorte, one of the creators of Dark Sky.
“Most meteorologists use complicated mathematical models of the weather, which works fairly well over medium intervals, but don’t tell you what’s going to happen in the short-term.” Dark Sky leaves the far-out forecasting to the geeks. “We take a statistical approach that they would find horrifying (in fact, several have emailed us expressing as much), but which works really well for short time-spans: we only try to tell you what the precipitation (if any) will look like for the next hour.”
Since the app is all about precipitation, it adds a little entertainment when your skies are clear. “CLEAR SKIES ARE BORING,” it says in sunny yellow letters. “Tap here to view a storm in Smicksburg, PA,” or wherever else the action is.
For the basic question of whether to bring an umbrella with you, Dark Sky’s interface gets everything right. All the right information is presented in all the right places, and the radar view is lovely. But how does Dark Sky do in the field?
Is It Accurate?
Jared and I each tested the app for a few days in our own environments. The “NOW” section was pretty accurate, but the short-term forecasting was uneven. You can even watch the trend lines fluctuate as the app makes its calculations.
We compared the radar images to RadarScope a serious weather radar app that Jared trusts. For simple, slow-moving weather systems, the images were comparable. However, as Jared pointed out, Dark Sky’s radar colors are unusual. “I can tell this wasn’t designed by meteorologists,” he says.
The usual green, yellow, red scale is softened, replaced by a blue-to-violet scale that fits with the app’s color schemes but seems to understate severe weather. The radar’s prediction model also gets noticeably less realistic as the weather gets more severe.
In fact, it’s extreme weather that gave us the most concern. There were serious storms in Minnesota the night we tested, with tornadoes on the ground and everything, and Dark Sky’s readout said “NOW: Rain.” It’s one thing to build the crazy physics of unpredictable, high-velocity storms into the app, which is out of scope for Dark Sky right now. But why not just add the word “Tornado!” Why not put a warning icon on the screen?
“Dark Sky doesn’t make any effort to identify and compensate for chaotic storm behavior,” LaPorte says. There are no meteorologists on the team. They’re just avid programmers going after an everyday use case. ”Extreme weather warnings are definitely on our radar (pardon the pun), though, and they tie in perfectly with one of the features we’re working on for our 2.0 release: push notifications.”
As of now, Dark Sky’s interface is wonderful, and its short-term precipitation tracking is worth a try. We do hope that it will incorporate severe weather notifications, even if it doesn’t model the prediction of intense storms. Dark Sky concentrates on the right question – “Is it going to rain?” – but people are going to count on weather apps to keep them safe, too.
Dark Sky for iPhone and iPad is $3.99 on the App Store.
Steven Wittens’ redesign of Acko.net pushes the 3D boundaries in a WebKit browser. This and more in today’s Daily Wrap.
Sometimes it’s difficult to catch every story that hits tech media in a day, so we wrap up some of the most talked about stories. We give you a daily recap of what you missed in the ReadWriteWeb Community, including a link to some of the most popular discussions in our offsite communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well.
The recent redesign of Steven Wittens’ Acko.net looks great in Firefox, but the magic only happens if you are viewing it via a WebKit browser, like Chrome or Safari. What started out as an accidental discovery became an experiment in, well, experimentation. The overall look is really cool, but it’s even cooler if you read how it’s done.
From the comments:
Mark Kahn — “A similar project (technology wise) that I’m working on. Requires _new_ chrome browser (hasn’t been converted to FF yet), and a macbook pro (needs accelerometer). Also works on some iOS / Android phones. http://marble.clientsite.me/ & source code: https://github.com/cwolves/Untitled-mobile-marble-game“
More Must Read Stories:
Google+ now has a meme text generator for images, allowing the Internet to parody itself until it’s no longer funny. The Google+ stream, already jammed with animated GIFs, full-width images and videos, Google Music players (theoretically) and 1,000-word rants, is now a full-fledged competitor to I Can Has Cheezburger. (more)
When the iPad first launched two years ago, it was derided by some for its limitations. The first iteration didn’t even have a camera on it, and it may never get a physical keyboard, so the notion of the device being used for content creation was laughable. Instead, the iPad was seen as a tool best used to lean back and consume content. For the most part, that’s how things have played out. People use their iPads for reading, watching video, listening to music and gaming. (more)
With Microsoft gearing up this year for Windows 8, I thought I would survey the stats on desktop OS share, and to no surprise, XP is still the leader. According to Forrester in March 2011, 60% of the corporate desktops were running XP. (more)
Facebook is ready to unleash a string of verbs into your Timeline. According to a report from AllThingsD, the Facebook Open Graph will be unleashed on the ecosystem this week bringing more “read, watch, listen” applications to the social platform. Open Graph apps that track what you eat, where and how far you run and what purchases you make could be announced as early as tomorrow. (more)
The last time you cleaned out your inbox, how many of those emails were auto-generated notifications from social networks and other websites? Unless you’re particularly aggressive about turning off default notifications, it was probably more than a few. You’ve been meaning to get around to going through and changing all those settings, but – oh hey, hang on, there’s another email. (more)
U.S. Representative Lamar Smith would like to remind you that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) he helped architect is not dead yet. The House will continue marking up the proposed legislation in February, according to a press release. By the beginning of this week, the bill was considered by many to be as good as dead, given recent political developments, including a statement from the Obama Administration that condemned the more restrictive and controversial aspects of SOPA and related legislation. (more)
Last fall ProfNet, the company that connects reporters with sources, asked me to lead a Twitter chat on how journalists can use social media in their work. It was fun, and using a hashtag set up for the chat, I was able to disperse little bits of social media wisdom in 140 characters or less. (more)
College students appear to have gotten over the creep factor of connecting with their professors on Facebook and would prefer to use the 800-million member social network for formal class assignments and discussions over other platforms, including Twitter. (more)
Your mobile device is a little extension of you, loaded up with your text messages, emails, social apps (Facebook, Twitter), news apps, finance apps, photography, location-based social networks, music, travel, sports, health, lifestyle…the list goes on. But how long do you actually keep those apps open, and when do you use which apps? (more)
Google+ now has a meme text generator for images, allowing the Internet to parody itself until it’s no longer funny. The Google+ stream, already jammed with animated GIFs, full-width images and videos, Google Music players (theoretically) and 1,000-word rants, is now a full-fledged competitor to I Can Has Cheezburger.
Google engineer Colin McMillen announced the feature this morning. The Google+ Creative Kit for editing images already had a text tool with lots of fonts to choose from, but this “funny text” tool is more brutal. Just drag an image into the share box, click ‘Add Text,’ and then there are boxes for top, middle and bottom text. The default font is white Impact, perfect for LOLcats.
The thing is, already has Google+ has powerful image editing features. Google is proud of the photographers who have taken to the service, and it has given them a suite of ways to enhance their images after uploading. If someone wanted to use Google+ to make a meme image, they could do so before. But today’s update reduces the friction, which means it’s all too easy to slap huge, white fonts onto images. Hooray for “engagement.”
Do you think any good can come of a meme generator built into the Google+ sharing box? Sound off in the comments.
Source: Go Daddy Reverses Course On SOPA
The iPhone is the domain of the game. Android I the land of the app. 2011 showed some very distinct trends in user activity on the two major mobile platforms. According to a study done by Xylogic shows that of the top 25 app publishers for iOS, only one does not produce games. On the flip side, of the top 25 for Android, only about half are game publishers.
Burbn, the maker of Instagram, was the only top iOS publisher to not be a gamer. Of the top 10 downloaded app on the App Store in November 2011, only two were apps: Instagram and Pinterest. Why do games perform so much better in the App Store than the Android Market?
Of the top 150 downloads in the Android Market in 2011, 85 were apps against 65 games. Apps were downloaded 91.5 million times against 33.42 million for games. On iOS, 100 games were in the top 150 against 50 games. Games were downloaded 71.57 million times versus 25.64 for apps.
The top publishers in the Android Market were Google, Facebook, Rovio, Adobe, DroidHen Casual, Outfit7, Magma Mobile, Glu Mobile, Go Dev Team, Kittehface Software, Skype, Notes, Nikolay Ananiev, Swiss Codemonkeys, NHN Corporation, Yahoo, Hancent, Pandora, AI Factory Limited, Kaufcom Games Apps Widgets, Verizon Wireless, Runnergames, Backflip studios and Polarbit.
Neither Facebook nor Google make the iOS list. There is a reason that there are now more Android Facebook users than iOS Facebook users. Google had a big year in the apps department with Google Maps, Google Plus and a variety of other apps released from Mountain View.
In contrast, iOS publishers were dominated by games: Glu Mobile, Gameloft, Big Fish Games, Rovio, Capcom, Chilingo, Storm8 (TeamLava), Outfit 7, Electronic Arts, Gamevil, Halfbrick Studios, DeNa (BackFlip/Ngmoco), Zynga/Newtoy, NaturalMotion, Streeview Labs, Tencent, NimbleBit, PopCap, Playforge, Clickgamer, Com2uS, Burbn and Orangenose Studios.
In November 2011, the top iOS download was Words With Friends Free with 3.023 million downloads. The top six downloads were games with Instagram in seventh with 2.116 million downloads. The only other non-game on the list was Pinterest at No. 9.
In contrast, there was only one game in the top 10 on Android in Nov. 2011. That was Defender by Droid with 1.414 million downloads in the No. 8 spot. The top downloaded app was Facebook for Android with 5.335 million downloads. Facebook Messenger was No. 3 with 2.801 million.
To a certain extent, it makes sense that games are downloaded more on iOS. Game developers tend to go to the platform first hardware on iOS devices makes it very conducive to making great games. Android is not far behind in that field. There must be some sociological reason that games are much more popular with iOS users. Do they have more spare time? More prone to the groupthink and doing what everyone else is doing? More affluent? Bored?
Developers, perhaps you can answer this question for us. Let us know in comments why games are more popular on iOS and apps the realm of Android.
Two acquisitions today that were for the most part executed so Silicon Valley companies could buy their way into the UK (and Ireland) market.
Red Robot Labs / Supermono
Red Robot says it will act as parent company, but let Supermono run an independent game creation and marketing business.
Founded almost a year ago, Red Robot Labs will thus expand to the UK market and set up shop in London. The company has also attracted Phil Harrison, General Partner at London Venture Partners and a former exec at Sony Computer Entertainment as a company advisor.
Appirio / Saaspoint
Saaspoint brings Appirio experienced cloud consultants, as well as a physical presence in the UK and Ireland, in an effort to aggressively expand across Europe.
Founded in 2005 by early Salesforce.com employees, Saaspoint boasts offices in the UK and Ireland, and has served more than 100 global customers including companies such as British Gas, Dell, eBay, Paypal, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and UBM.
The transaction is expected to close later this month, subject to customary closing conditions.
What’s an Android user to do about this not-so-shocking fact? Rejoice?
A new report from ComScore tries to make it look like 10% of iPhone users is a huge marketshare when, really, it’s not. For the three month period ending October 2011, reports showed that 234 million Americans ages 13-and-older used mobile devices. Apple has bumped its way up to number four, trailing behind Samsung, LG and Motorola. It did pass up RIM.
What might actually be more significant than the amount of mobile subscribers achieved by Apple is that of the five brands listed in this report, Apple is the only one that has actually gained more subscribers over the past three months alone. And just to be clear, this data was collected before the launch of the iPhone4S.
To be precise, Apple owns only 10.8% of mobile subscribers, while Samsung has 25.5%, LG has 20.6%. Motorola clocks in above Appel at 13.6%, while RIM lags behind just a bit with only 6.6% of mobile subscribers.
As of October 2011, 90 million people in the United States owned smartphones. Google tops that list, too, with a total of 46.3% of mobile subscribers. Apple comes in second with 28.1% of mobile subscribers.
It’s a good thing both ComScore and I both included iPhone in the headline. After all, who cares about Google’s mobile market share, really…
Twitter is cutting deals with 3rd party providers of services that re-syndicate Tweets online, the company announced today, and the first one is Austin, Texas based Mass Relevance. Mass Relevance has access to the full Twitter fire hose and offers its customers a filtering, curation and display technology to add Tweets about a TV show, political campaign or other event to their web pages.
The potential for syndicated Tweets is big, but hopefully Twitter won’t go after everyone else in the world who puts Tweets on other websites as a part of their business. The company doesn’t seem to be welcoming interested parties to license those rights either. We’ve asked Twitter for comment on the prospect of enforcement of the prohibition against unofficial resyndication of Tweets (who said this stuff was free as the wind?) but haven’t heard back from the company yet.
Mass Relevance looks like a cool service, it seems pretty straight forward. There’s no indication of how much the company paid for the right to resell Tweets, but they probably paid dearly.
Twitter as a developer platform has traveled a rocky road, lots of highs and lots of lows. Enabling serious business use of Tweets is going to be an important next step. Hopefully that will happen in a way that’s accessible to small developers, in order that those developers can create the fabulous things that a broad ecosystem can come up with better than a limited set of high-end companies will.
Writing on the Twitter developers’ blog, Twitter’s Jason Costa wrote today, “Expect to see additional partnerships of this kind as we look for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter.”
ORLY? That doesn’t sound like “click here to buy a license.” That sounds like Twitter is going to drive this themselves, the company is looking for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter. Isn’t the lesson of a platform though that no company will ever be able to discover as much innovation as a larger ecosystem of independent developers will?
Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this?