Outside iPhone App Review.
You're probably wondering why reviewing another iPhone app that lets you check the weather? I mean, there's already a plethora of similar apps, most free, that cram so much info in the home screen it's mind blowing. If you take out the ones that are purely unattractive, minus apps that simply don't provide accurate information, well, you're not left with a lot of options for the iPhone. Enter Outside, a fresh new weather app that effectively combines a creative design with the accuracy of weather reporting. You'll find yourself checking the weather status more than once per day, albeit just to see the great graphics.
Creative Graphics Coupled With Refreshing User Experience
I'm going to give you the low-down on this one. Outside will do nothing more that different from any other iPhone weather app. It tells you what the current temperature is. It tells you what the weather is expected to bring (i.e. rain, snow, sun). And it gives you a prediction for the next couple of days.
But what's really stunning is the way it does these three simple things. Outside mastered the way of "Show and Tell." Instead of simply displaying a number on the screen, Outside presents you with an open window with a creative animated scene, a tree outside, representing the current weather. Sure enough, it has the number you're looking for right above the tree, while on the left-top of the iPhone's screen, you'll see when the app last updated its status report. And while the app doesn't have a "Refresh Now" button, it will auto-update on launch, as long as you're connected to 3G or WiFi.
On the user experience level, you'll get a refreshing sense of an uncluttered screen. Age-old are the billion of bits of information that absolutely needed to be on the same page. Outside took care of that by adding in a swiping action to the Home screen, that will get you looking at the various variables of the current conditions outside (such as UV index, cloud cover, wind speeds and humidity), or the forecast for the next 5 days. It's a bit problematic that they replaced the cluttered home screen with additional swiping (6 swipes to get to the last day of forecast), but I welcome your perspectives on the matter. I personally see more sense in one day per screen actually.
A Strong Set Of Built-In Functionalities
But Outside is more than a pretty weather app. The first thing you'll notice is that Outside actually display two temperatures. The current temperature and the What it feels like temperature, the wind chill factor.
However, the main addition for Outside is the use of push-notifications. There are four types of notifications you can set - Rain, Cold, T-Shirt Weather and High UV. With each, you can choose when the app notifies you each day, customize the message displayed, and even the sound associated with it. Also, each notification has its unique settings. With Cold and T-Shirt weather, you're allowed to set your own temperature preferences, and Outside will send you push notifications when those temperatures pop-up. For High UV, set your own minimum UV Index, and the app will do the rest.
The downside of the this (or rather the noteworthy mention) is that push-notifications from Outside come at a cost. Upon downloading the app, you get 30-days-worth of notifications free. After that, you need to pay $0.99 for every additional 90 days. A year's worth of notifications with Outside will double your initial payment for downloading the app.
What Can Be Improved
The most important feature I'd like to see with Outside is supporting more than one location. Right now, the app doesn't really use Location Services. It will ask you where you are the first time you open it, but won't check again next time. So if you're moving from city to city (or would like to see the weather in another city), you need to change this location manually in the Preferences section. I think having the option to set more than one city would be highly beneficial for the tourist user, but even the average user like myself who occasionally travels.
The push-notifications seem a bit pricey, but on the basis of it, they're not. I understand the need to keep servers up and running (I have my own to take care of), but I'd like to see more for my money's worth. I'd especially be interested in a notification-type that lets me set other important weather conditions, like rain or snow. That would definitely compel me to change clothes or accessories when going out and about, since a number for the notification won't really let me bring an umbrella.
But overall, I'd like to recommend Outside. It's a nicely designed weather app that provides for an interesting user experience. Yes, it has it clear omissions, but that's nothing some more development and an update can't fix. The price tag is a bit high, but worth it for the most part.
What's your favorite weather app for the iPhone then?
Released: December 20, 2009
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