Forecast.io's HTML5 web application offers one of the best all-around, cross-platform weather services with features like radar maps, time machine (for viewing historical weather data), and more. Could it signal a shift away from traditional smartphone apps as we know them?
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Forecast.io: The best weather app for iPhone isn’t an app at all

forecast-io-global

If you are looking for the best weather app for iPhone, you won’t find it in the App Store. Forecast is perhaps the web’s best kept secret, a beautiful representation of what HTML5 is capable of and quite simply the most robust, intuitive (and free) weather “app” available for mobile (or desktop, or otherwise).

Go ahead, navigate to forecast.io on your iPhone. You will be prompted to save a shortcut to the site on your homescreen. There you go, you have just “installed” the best weather app currently available for iPhone.

forecast-io-forecastYou want a clean, minimal look? Forecast has it. You want three levels of radar coverage showing cloud maps at a local, regional, and global scale? Forecast has it. How about a “time machine” feature that allows you to quickly look up the conditions for any date with recorded weather data from the past? Once again, look no further than Forecast.

But the brilliance of the service is the way the web interface is adapted to mobile, tapping into location services to provide real-time weather conditions fed in from a variety of public sources, including USA NOAA, the UK Met Office and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. It’s from the makers of Dark Sky, so you know the information is accurate up to the minute.

forecast-io-radar

The main view shows you current conditions with a scrollable slider to present the forecast based on time. Slide the pane up to see the future week’s forecast. Tap Map to track the location of current storm systems by time.

But the real beauty is that this HTML5 web app is platform agnostic. Yes, Android users get the same treatment. Open Forecast.io in a desktop web browser and get an even deeper look into weather conditions. You can even crunch the data for yourself.

But on a larger scale, what we see with Forecast.io is the potential for HTML5 to replace the standard app ecosystem we are used to. No need for installation or special App Store approvals, no need to develop a separate app for each platform. This is the web on steroids integrated seamlessly into the way we use our mobile phones. Sure, we miss some features that an app could afford, such as notification support, but when the tradeoff is a ridiculously powerful yet simple service like Forecast, available at no cost, we’ll take that.

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