The new year is only a few days away, and I’ve already been disappointed a dozen times: every once in a while my muscle memory pulled my phone out of my pocket and reached for my thumb toward where the darkening sky was. My weather app is down, Apple bought it and killed it, and I’m adrift. Don’t laugh at me, and I don’t think I’m over-exciting about this. It could start raining at any minute And the I have no idea.
If you don’t know what Dark Sky is, well, maybe you’d better not read on, lest you realize what you’ve been missing. If you know what Dark Sky is, you’ve also loved it and lost it and are still scrambling to find an alternative app that can do what Dark Sky did: deliver highly localized, short-term predictions, in a fun and painless package. You will open the app and it will tell you that it will start raining in 17 minutes. Not 16 minutes, not 18, but 17. He told you how hard it would rain, when it would stop. It has become an integral part of my going out routine. Do you know to check keys/phone/wallet? To that, I added “check Dark Sky”. Now I may never leave the house.
We enjoyed a decade of Dark Sky, which began life as a Kickstarter project before launching the app in 2012. But the writing has been on hold since 2020, when Apple struggled to develop a good or popular weather app on its own, buy it. It wasn’t until last summer when the date of death was announced, and exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve on the East Coast (trust me, I checked, and then checked a few more times, just in case), that the iOS app went dark. Dark Sky features are supposed to be Built into Apple’s native Weather app, but I’ve spent the past few months on a death march trying to train myself to use Apple Weather, and I still think it’s really bad. Nothing about this app is intuitive or pretty; Everything in it is hard to find and read.
The funny thing to note here is that Dark Sky’s big selling point was, according to actual meteorologists, not very good; The science behind his accurate precipitation forecasts was a little unscientific. What he was doing was, in simple terms, looking at rain bubbles on a radar map and how fast they were going, and calculating How long will it take for these points to travel to where you are.
The images have been processed. Andrew Blum told Slate. “[A]All it was doing was taking the visual inputs of the radar and extrapolating what would happen over the next two hours.”
Needless to say, meteorology is much more complex than that –Almost unimaginable and literally incalculably complexThis is why smart, highly educated, trained professionals using the best hardware and software still struggle to accurately predict the weather for more than a few days. For a variable and complex storm, even in its direct path, Dark Sky’s “the point was here so there will be” engine was an educated guess, and well marketed.
However, Dark Sky was more often right than wrong, and just as often appropriate as to be helpful. But what really sets the app apart from its peers, and where no other app on the market can currently replace it, is its recognition of the importance of design. It was comfortable to look at and a pleasure to use. Simple presentation and aesthetics I’d almost describe as organic: graphics indicating rain were pulsating, splattered, dotted, the entire package down to the radar map rendered in soothing shades of blue. And everything you need is presented right there, right there, either on the first screen or accessible with a single tap. I felt like it was made for the average person, who doesn’t want to learn the ins and outs of the entire user interface in order to know which overcoat to wear.
Example: Do you want to know what a Dew Drop Will it be 1:00 pm on Saturday? In Dark Sky, you scroll down, tap once, and there it was, the dew point for each hour of each of the next 10 days. In Apple Weather, you can swipe, tap, drop-down, tap, tap and hold — and all you get is the dew point at a specific time. No one should live like this.
Ah, but there is no use crying over the spilled millibars. So what should we Dark Sky addicts do to fix us? I’ve tried a few alternatives and none worked. AccuWeather is impersonal and overly complex. Weather Underground used to be good until it was acquired by IBM and it went downhill. WeatherBug is useful, but flawed. The carrot Tu is unbearable. Apple Weather – Well, there are a lot of things, but it will never be Dark Sky. It seems like for now, all we can do is bemoan Silicon Valley’s habit of buying good things and making them worse, mourning what we’ve lost, and celebrating the time we had together. Next time I catch rain, I’ll think of Dark Sky, and the drought that might be.
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