A first look at The Weather Channel's new Storm Radar app

If you're a weather fanatic like most of us here at Apple World Today, then you're familiar with the products of The Weather Company. The company is owned by IBM, and its products include The Weather Channel and Weather Underground. Now if you watched Monday's AWT TV, you know that Marty Edwards demoed the great Wunderground app on that show. The company has just announced another free iPhone app called Storm Radar, and we're here to take a first look at it.

The first thing to know about the app is that it is ad-supported, so if you're not a fan of banner ads at the bottom of app screens, you might want to skip. Personally, I think The Weather Channel should consider a $0.99 in-app purchase to remove the ads like it does with Wunderground, but that's my grumpy opinion...

The app is quite simple in how it works -- you get a choice of one of three map styles; black background with roads and major landmarks, map, or satellite photo. Once you have selected one of the three, you can always go back and change the setting to one of the other map types.

The app then shows how radar colors correspond to what's happening weather-wise. Shades of green indicate light rain, yellow and red indicate heavy rain, blue is snow. After either selecting your current location or searching for another location, a map is displayed. At the top the map is a listing of the current weather and forecast; a tap opens a window for additional details.

The most important part of the app is the animated radar map. It covers the past two hours of actual weather, the current weather situation, and then the forecasted map for the next six hours. This radar map loops, or can be paused with a tap. 

Like many of the other Weather Company apps, users can switch layers on the map. Radar is the default layer, but it's also possible to look at wind, temperature, or even tropical storms (we don't get many of those in Colorado...). Custom layers can add even more information, such as local storm reports, actual cloud cover, lightning, storm tracks, temperature changes, earthquakes, road weather and more.

I personally prefer the Weather Underground Storm app, which shares a stylized "S" logo that looks like a lightning bolt. That app show much of the same information, but places the forecast at the bottom of the screen where it's out of the way. In addition, it's possible to link the app to a specific PWS (Personal Weather Station) for hyper-local weather reports and forecasts. 

Those of us who are seasoned weather watchers also love the RadarScope app ($9.99 with in-app purchases), which is truly a pro-level app. It's possible to choose different types of radar at different tilt angles, important in finding information like thunderstorm cloud tops or seeking the elusive "hook" signature of a tornado. 

For many weather watchers, however, the Storm Radar app may be just the free app you're looking for in order to get just a bit more information about what's happening -- or about to happen -- in your area.