Lord Knows, The last thing the world needs is another weather app. OK, except maybe this weather app: Dark Sky, a longtime iOS favourite, has finally made its way to Android.
For the uninitiated, Dark Sky’s joy is its ability to focus on the immediate future. Specifically, it alerts you when rain is on the way, its severity, and how long it will last. Better still, it’s as accurate as it is beautifully designed.In the years since Dark Sky first launched iOS (as a successful Kickstarter, no less), other weather apps have caught up with its to-the-minute forecasts. AccuWeather, for instance, in 2014 introduced something called MinuteCast, which gives you a rough sense of what’s going to happen near you within a two-hour window.
As other apps entered Dark Sky’s near-future space, though, Dark Sky expanded its offerings (using data from Forecast.io, created by the same developers, and which also powers Poncho and other weather apps) to match what more traditional providers do. Meanwhile, it still offers beautiful, unique radar imagery, unbeatable accuracy, and hyper-localized results.
A Service, Not an App
All the Dark Sky functionality remains the same in the Android version, but there are a few key differences to how the app is structured. Specifically, how you pay for it; while iOS customers need to cough up a one-time, $4 fee, Android users tap into basic weather features for free. To access anything beyond the conventional weather info—all that near-term goodness—takes an annual subscription of $3.
“We really think of Dark Sky as a service, not just an app,” says Dark Sky co-founder Adam Grossman. “When you turn on notifications, you get your own dedicated spot on one of our servers that is constantly checking the weather to make sure you don’t get caught in the rain. So a subscription makes sense.”
It could conceivably make sense on iOS as well; the App Store allows for subscriptions in the form of in-app purchases. Still, Grossman says he’s not sure yet if Dark Sky on your iPhone will make the jump from one upfront payment paid. That’s because Google Play gives customers a chance to try before they buy, which could mean fewer frustrated downloaders down the line.
“We haven’t made any decisions about iOS,” says Grossman. “The reason it might work better on Android is because Android allows free trials, which makes it a less risky proposition for users. We think that’s important, but we need to see what happens before we make any changes to iOS pricing.”
That focus on customer experience also has a lot to do with why it took Dark Sky so long to find its way onto Android.
“We’ve finally grown enough where we could actually build for—and support—an entirely new platform,” says Grossman. “We were just two, iOS-using, co-founders for a long time, and if we had attempted an Android app in the past it might not have turned out as great as we wanted.”
Getting Widget With It
Now that it’s finally traversed to Android, Dark Sky has added a few usability perks as well. There are three widgets available, which show forecasts in increments of either five days, one day, or one hour. That last one comes with a graph of exactly how much rain you should expect.
“Android also lets us … offer a bit more sophisticated notification styling which we’re really happy about,” says Grossman. “We’re always trying to find ways to make it so users don’t need to actually open the app itself.”
One Android feature Dark Sky isn’t taking advantage of yet, though, is integration with Google Now, which would put those notifications and information in Google’s centralized, location-and-context-aware hub. Grossman didn’t reject the idea outright; he just hasn’t had time yet to explore it. He just moved into the neighborhood; it’s a little early to start planning a block party.
It might seem strange to pay for a weather app, especially every year. And that’s fair! Just know that with Dark Sky, at least you’ll be getting what you pay for, on whichever platform you prefer.