I'll bet that one of the first apps you downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet was for weather. These apps are more appealing than weather forecasts on television, because they provide interactive weather reports you can hold in your hand.
But many still have much in common with old-fashioned TV reports: they rely on similar graphics, and they may so overload you with information that you can't even remember if it will rain on Thursday. A whole new class of apps avoids these problems, reporting the weather simply and beautifully. Perhaps the most attractive is Solar, $2 on iOS. This app symbolically displays the immediate forecast in a single glance, with clever color graphics that fill the screen. Warm weather shows as orange or red shading, cold weather as blues. Gently falling white blurs indicate rain showers. The display also includes text showing current temperatures for your location.
To see more data, you use gesture controls. A down-swipe produces an icon-based prediction for the next three days. Swipe left or right to see the weather in other locations you have programmed into the app. A long up-swipe takes you through each hour of the next day, with forecast details for that hour shown in text and color.
Solar is intentionally simple, but understanding its display still involves a small learning curve. And it might not show quite enough data for you to make practical decisions -- for example, what clothes to pack for a trip.
For a slightly more data-centric experience, there is Weather Bomb, free for Android. This app's display is split into three sections. At the top is a bar with numerical data, like temperature, rainfall, chance of sunshine. Beneath this is a graph that plots this data over the next week, creating a clear visual display. A large blue section, for example, means that heavy rain is coming.
The main part of the screen is the best thing about this app. It contains a map of your location overlaid with colorful shapes that match the weather forecast for your region. You can select from displays of rainfall, winds and clouds via a menu. Each of these displays has a distinctive color scheme. Heavy rain is shown in red, for example, while clouds are shown in shades of gray. The display also reacts to touch: a left-to-right swipe moves forward in time through the weather prediction data, and the color overlays are animated accordingly.
Learning to use Weather Bomb may involve a little tinkering, but it's eye-catching and fun. And it can keep you up to date on when an incoming weather system will deliver some serious rain or wind.
If you prefer weather reports with more detail, Weathercube, a free iOS app, may appeal to you. It uses simple graphics and gesture controls to show the information as if it were printed on a 3-D cube. One face of the cube shows current weather data. Swipe left or right to rotate the cube and see predictions for other days. A downward swipe rotates the cube to show a six-day forecast with symbols for sun, clouds and so on. An up-swipe displays forecast data for the next several hours in a list format. It takes only a couple of seconds to get a good sense of the weather predictions for the day and the next week.
Weather Flow, a $2 app for Android and Windows Phone, has a similar attractive design and delivers the same sort of predictive data using icons and images, like a sun rising over a green field to represent good weather. It too can give you weather predictions at a glance, although it lacks the interactive entertainment of the "cube" in Weathercube.
Swackett, free for iOS and Android, contains detailed weather predictions in graphics and text. But its main feature is a cute infographic display of a stick person wearing clothing appropriate for the current weather. It also contains amusing weather trivia (as in, one inch of rain is equivalent to 15 inches of powdery snow).
Weather apps all have one thing in common: they won't bore you the way a traditional weather report can. They may even make you feel less disappointed at coming bad weather.
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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.