App of the Week: WeatherBug Elite

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App: App Shopper Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Palm Web site: WeatherBug Web site Cost: $0.99

People who know me know I'm a weather nerd. I love reading about it and talking about high pressure areas, cold fronts, hurricanes and the like. The doppler radar plays a prominent role in my mornings. It's ridiculous, but I'm okay with that.

Last year, I put together a list of my nine favorite weather apps. The Weather Channel app, which also ranked fourth on my list of the best apps of 2011, was my number one. The app that is the subject of this post was number three. Well, there's a new app in town and it's my new number one with a bullet.

For a couple years, I felt like the Weather Channel app just could not be beaten thanks to its extensive database and excellent radar. Like many of the weather apps I've tried, its interface left something to be desired, but it was clean enough and worked really well. When I noticed a week ago that WeatherBug Elite had a .0 update (meaning a whole new version with a completely revamped interface), I was intrigued.

What I found was a highly sophisticated weather app that outpaces its Weather Channel cousin in virtually every way.

First, let's get the "why should I pay for this when I can get plain WeatherBug for free?" question out of the way. The simple answer is that this version moves faster and is ad-free. Plus, it's 99 cents. If that breaks your bank, you might want to rethink owning a cell phone in the first place.

Now, as to the app itself, the main screen opens to weather station-style interface complete with temperature, graphic conditions, high/low temps, UV rating, wind speed, gusts and direction, dew point, humidity and a three-day forecast to boot. Like previous versions of the app, users can choose from weather station locations throughout the area or from locations across the world and store them for later use.

The clean interface makes finding information a snap. There is even a simple red triangle that can be tapped for severe weather information.

The small icons at the bottom provide access to the forecast, radar, updated photos from area webcams and updated forecast video for the U.S. The photos and video are neat options, but the forecast and radar are what makes this a powerful addition to any phone.

The forecast goes into detail over the seven days with high and low temperatures, conditions, wind estimates and rainfall predictions. Tapping twice on a given day goes deeper into the forecast with hourly estimates, something that is often hard to find in the interfaces of similar weather apps.

But, the thing that immediately sold me on this app was the radar. Most app radars are insanely slow and often clunky to use even with wi-fi connections. Resizing a map or animating it could cause all sorts of problems from missing image components to crashes. Not with WeatherBug. The radar loads quickly and resizing works as if you are sitting at an actual doppler radar in the National Weather Service offices.

Then there are the layer options. Like most radars, there is the standard radar, visible satellite and infrared satellite, but WeatherBug goes farther, including observable data like pressure, wind speed, humidity, temperature, heat index, wind chill, dew point and even forecast highs and lows. Each layer provides color-coded map information like you might see on the actual Weather Channel or your local news.

And dragging around on the map or engaging the animation works quickly and smoothly with little delay.

Looks like I have a new weather app and if you are interested in keeping track of the weather, you should too.

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