Nov, 08 2009

If your goal is quick, accurate weather information on your Android phone, stop hunting through Market.  Weather Forecast Widget v2 is the most solidly developed, reliable, complete, and most customizable weather widget available.  Its reliability and customizability are well worth the €.99 to unlock all the features in the donate version.

I’m a bit a of a weather fiend.  Living in Minnesota… well, let’s just say the jokes aren’t funny any more, especially if the forecast information I got was not quite right.  I also have to dress two people (1 regular, 1 mini, in layers), both of whom believe efficiency involves squeezing three more minutes of sleep into the schedule (repeat until crisis mode).  It has been well worth my time to cull through the available venues to get fast, accurate weather, and apps that won’t slow down my phone, since by this time I have created a situation in which I need to check traffic and call three people, likely from the car.

Weather Forecast Widget is based on open source Forecast Widget (Jeff Sharkey), which takes forecast information from the US National Weather Service, and has added a Google Weather feed for current weather conditions and international use.  I have found these two services, along with iMap Weather to be the most accurate.  Since I tend to cross-check forecasts between services, I like that the link in the forecast window, when clicking on the widget, points to Wunderground (as accurate as Google) customized to your location. It’s a quirky little feature to point to a site that isn’t the feed source, and the site is slow, but the site provides an hourly breakdown of the entire week, and provides everything from tide cycles to wind speeds from thousands of weather stations.

The customization options rival those of long-established apps from other platforms.  There are several skins available, and submitting a skin is fairly easy for skinners or developers, so there are lots of graphics available.  Here are just a couple of examples of how it can look:

Wx_3screen

Another unique feature I adore is multiple instances, each with custom locations and skins, and a choice of the two services for each instance. (Around here it could be snowing like like a skier’s dream at home, and clear as freshly cleaned glass 20 miles away at school.)

Wx1x1

The forecast view is visible when the widget is tapped. Tap a day to get crazy-detail at Wunderground.com, with your day and location specified. It also has buttons to edit the widget setup and a manual refresh.

WxForecast

Setup is very straightforward, and all on one scrollable screen.

setup

You’ll need to set up each instance of the widget every time you place it.  With the ability to run simultaneous instances, the saving of widget data is fairly complex, and retrieving it for a new instance is probably pretty unreliable.  I’m willing to put up with this since I know this developer won’t implement anything he believes to be remotely unreliable.

Skinning sits on a silver spoon, and there are lots of fun combinations to try to see what works best for you, or with which to play when your fav game is too loud for the line in which you’re waiting.

skinning

It does add quite a list to your widgets; one for each widget size.  You can reduce this list and shut down sizes you won’t use (or any widget addition that you won’t use but comes in an otherwise great package) with Autostarts (for rooted phones).  It has an allowance for update issues, but I’ve found uninstalling and reinstalling addresses that as well.  I haven’t had any update problems with a reliable, up-to-date ROM.  No app is perfect, but I chose this one for my first review because it’s as close as I’ve found, in or out Market, so far.

(Yes, this is my first review.  Please feel free to regale me with kudos, applause, x’s and o’s (I hear 22% of men use them in sms to each other, so why not me?), or, if you must, gently let me know if there’s a bit of info you wanted that I missed.)

Summary:

Relaibilty: 5 stars

Useability: 4.5 stars (-.5 for having to reset each implementation of each instance)

Customization: 4 stars (I’m extra fussy on this, most apps don’t get any stars at all from me)

Feature/simplicity balance: 5 stars

Ongoing memory use: <15 KB to 1mb for 4×4 plus calendar.  Depends on skins and number of instances.

Size on disk: 397KB

Good compliment apps: iMap weather (free); Autostarts

Other apps by Francois Deslandes