Weather or Not: 3 Free Weather Apps You'll Want

I spend a lot of time outdoors. For a city kid I get into all manner of woodsy stuff. It's not that I've suddenly got in touch with my rural roots (members of my family still live in very rural south western Virginia)...well...maybe I have.

Even while growing up in the middle of Baltimore I was attracted to places where nature was allowed to reign. I spent many hours wandering the trails in Gwen Falls and Druid Hill Parks. Nowadays, when not at work, you are just as likely to find me paddling down the St. James River, walking Playa Linda Beach, or hiking through any of the many parks in and around Orlando.

Free on iTunes

Even if you're not the outdoors type keeping an eye on the weather is always a good idea, regardless of where you live. I used to know folks who just didn't care for outdoor activities. Even they would open the windows to let fresh air in when the weather was right to do so. (Yes, I used to know these folks, but as I've gotten older my focus has leaned heavily towards surrounding myself with people of like interests).

We have iPhones and the like, so keeping track of weather should be easy, right? Well, it depends on whether you have a decent app or apps.

Currently, my top weather apps are MyRadar and The Weather Channel. MyRadar cost US$3.00 to remove the ads, but the up to the minute radar images it provides is worth it in my opinion. I rely on The Weather Channel app for hourly and daily forecasts. Both apps have had updates recently and remain my defaults, but other weather apps have gone through massive changes that make them a lot more interesting than they used to be. And that's the theme of this week's Free on iTunes. So let's get to it.

Yahoo! Weather [16 MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Yahoo! Inc.]

Yahoo! WeatherYahoo! Weather opens with a local photo

The new paradigm for app/user interface seems to what I'll call "quasi-reality", where the app will simulate real events or conditions. It's all the rage in weather apps, and it seems to make sense. We don't need words to tell us it's snowing outside. If we see a photo of snow then we instantly understand what's going on and the implications surrounding the photo. Add motion and we get a better sense of what it's like outside. Yahoo! Weather does this well.

Fire it up and after getting your location info Yahoo! Weather offers up a simple display with the current temp and rather tiny graphic of current conditions. If you want more detailed info you just have to swipe up to get hourly and 5-day forecasts.

Still need more details? Continue scrolling up to get things like humidity, UV index, and text of the forecast for the next 36 hours.

Keep scrolling up to find a weather map, wind and pressure reading, precipitation forecast, even a display that shows sun and moon info.

Yahoo! WaetherThe app gives you all kinds of info.

Information overload? Maybe, if it were just listed text, but these displays are anything but boring. Each indicator shows a graphic relative to its purpose. The Wind and Pressure display, for instance, shows a windmill with its blades rotating at a speed relative to the actual windspeed. This is what I mean by "Quasi-Reality".

Lets go back to the front page for a moment. What I didn't mention earlier is that, along with the temp and other info on the front page, the background image is a photo taken locally. Change location and the background image changes. Pretty cool.

Yes, there are ads, but they are small and you can pay to rid the screen of them.

I can't tell you how accurate Yahoo! Weather is, but the forecast jives well with my standard weather apps. If you're looking for a new weather app that gives you lots of info, but only when you need it, check out Yahoo! Weather.

WunderMap [24.6 MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 7.0 or later, Maker: Weather Underground, LLC]

WunderMapWunderMap lets you see condition in an instant with symbols

Of all the weather apps I've seen WunderMap is the most unique. In it's default display you'll see a map filled with info. The badges with numbers show local temps. If there's precipitation you'll see it as you would on other maps. In fact, WunderMap can show a variety of conditions via and extensive list of layers. But the app goes one better and offers a list of layer combinations called Layer Groups.

With all the symbols and whatnot being displayed it may be a bit confusing. After all, what does a orange badge with a long line and two ticks at the end mean? (The line indicates wind direction and the ticks are wind speed indicators, in 5 and 1- mph increments, and the orange color gives relative temperature.) It'll also show you traditional symbols like cold front lines and high pressure ridges. If you're an armchair weatherman you'll feel right at home.

WunderMapLayers let you control what you see.

Of course you get the usual weather related info by tapping the display. It's all there, 10 days forecast, including day and night weather, a graphical display showing variations over a 24 hours period, and so on.

WunderMap is unique among weather apps in that it tries to hold on to tradition. Once you understand the symbols you'll start to appreciate the wealth of info this app is giving.

AccuWeather [29.3 MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 7.0 or later, Maker: Steven Mesko]

AccuWeatherVery interactive iPad version of AccuWeather

Of the weather apps offered here AccuWeather adheres most to the quasi-reality paradigm I mentioned earlier.

Open the app and, like Yahoo! Weather, you're greeted with basic weather info; temperature with wind/temp index (RealFeel®), temperature high and low for the day, and a rather terse description of current conditions. The app can get away with the brief description because the background is a quasi-realistic display of the current conditions. If it's raining you'll see clouds and rain, on a clear night you'll see a star filled night sky and if there's a moon you'll see it in whatever phase it happens to be in (waxing or waning). You get the idea, and it's pretty effective, and pretty.

iPhone version of AccuWeather

There's also an option to use MinuteCast™ which a precipitation predictor for your immediate area. It looks 2 hours ahead giving you a minute by minute forecast of your chances of getting wet. The forecast is interactive too, letting you scroll through the 2 hour period to see when you may have a chance to make a run for your car.

More general weather details are available by scrolling up. You'll get hourly and up to 14-day forecasts, more details on current conditions, even almanac like sun and moon data, and, of course, a weather map.

There are ads which you can remove for $3, and there are specific versions for iPhone and iPad.

AccuWeather is a gorgeous app. Take a look, it might just what you're looking for in a weather app.

And that's almost a wrap for this week. Grab this week's Free Single of the Week, Lift Your Spirits by Aloe Blacc and this week's Free App of the Week, Darklings.

Now, it's a wrap.