Metservice

While it’s hardly the sexiest subject in the world, the weather is probably one of the most widely discussed topics of conversation in every day life. It often affects our ability to perform activities we had planned, can spoil or enhance events we are attending, and is even proven to affect our mood. Well now “there’s an App for that”.

MetService has just released the Metservice app, available on both iOS and Android. This is a review of the iOS app, but the Android app was developed in conjunction and is also functionally identical. The iOS app was designed by Shift (creators of the beautifully looking Herald iPad app) and developed by Wellington-based PaperKite (the team behind the Official All Blacks App as well as the “I can’t believe they made it” NZ Budget 2012″ App). MetService already has an excellent and informative free website, as well as a “mobile-optimised” version of the same site for smaller screens, so is it worth spending the $2.59 on this new release app?

The first thing you will notice in firing up the MetService app is how easy it is to use. No setup is required – simply grant access for the app to use your Location Services, and instantly the home screen loads with today’s current forecast for your location. The forecast summary is laid over a photo of major cities – a picture taken on a sunny day is used when the forecast is clear, while generic pictures are used for more dismal forecasts, presumably to avoid painting Dunedin in a bad light! There are glorious pictures of Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, but places the size of Tauranga or smaller sadly miss out.

This could be easily rectified by a later update, and I hope that the PaperKite will consider adding high quality professional photography to smaller towns – in fact this is something that the small towns themselves may be quite prepared to supply in order to promote themselves. The app does let you use your own custom photos instead though, so if you are keen you can take your own, or look for photos of smaller towns you take an interest in, to incorporate those pictures into the forecasts. Or if you prefer (as emetic and twitter user @LeeClarry would) you could just use photos of cats, cats, and more cats. Speaking of twitter, the app allows you to easily share forecasts via twitter, Facebook, email, or TXT.

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The main forecast screen looks glorious on a retina iPhone display. The typography is crisp and classy, the information presented clearly in a logical fashion, and the background photos complete the beautiful presentation. The one thing I love about MetService is their 10 day forecast, and this is accessed with a simple swipe gesture to access the other 9 days following. Swiping back “before” the current day serves as a swipe to refresh the forecast.

While this presentation of the long range forecast is undoubtedly beautiful, sometimes you just need all the information on a single screen. Tapping the forecast button in the top menu bar brings this up with 5 days to a screen, still incorporating the photography but in a thumbnail fashion. Also along the top menu bar is access to road traffic cameras (Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch only). Unfortunately Hamilton and Dunedin miss out, even though access to those NZTA cameras is available on the MetService website. Weather warnings and a national map with temperature information rounds out the options presented in the app’s top menu.

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Another excellent tool on the MetService website is the access to Rain Radar and Rain Forecast maps. These are not available on the mobile version of the website, and are a very welcome feature of the MetService app. The Rain Radar shows an animation of the last hour’s rainfall coverage and intensity, while the Forecast predicts rainfall patterns of the next 3 days. The only feature missing is the long range (7 day) Rain Forecast – consider this a feature request 😉

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MetService TV is something I’ve never really used on the MetService website, but basically it is the MetService’s own TV-style presentation of the weather. This is again something not available on the mobile version of the MetService website, so will be appreciated by smartphone users who prefer to have weather presented to them in this fashion. Local video forecasts are available for Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, or there is a National report covering the country. The features of version 1.0 of the MetService app are rounded off by Severe Weather Warnings and alerts, which is essentially “Breaking News” for weather buffs.

MetserviceTV

In terms of what is “missing” from the app, it does not incorporate the isobar maps, rural forecasts, “Marine and Surf”, and “Mountains and Parks” information found on the main MetService website. This is not a criticism of the app, but simply pointed out for MetService users that rely heavily on that information from the website.

The MetService app is extremely impressive, and presents the high quality information from the MetService website in a logical and beautifully functional way on smartphones. Shift and PaperKite have done an excellent job of taking the essence of the MetService website and repackaging it for the completely different platform of a touchscreen phone. With relatively little effort this app could be improved as mentioned above, but even in its current state is a superbly useful app. Both the iOS and Android apps are available right now from their respective stores for $2.59, and this represents excellent value for an app that will be used by many on a daily basis.

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