Oz Weather HD Update

Oz Weather HD for iPad has just had an update approved by Apple (4 days waiting for review, 3 days in review). [iTunes link]

The app reached #2 ranking in the Australian app store for paid iPad apps for two days last week. Since then it has drifted down to about #8. But I suspect that all we need is a really good dose of “bad” weather in a few capital cities to send it back up. 😉

The enhancements are mainly things that will appeal to “high-end” users ie. weather geeks like myself.

Firstly the weather warnings have now all been color coded, so that important and relevant warnings stand out much more clearly than before. Typically most warnings are for coastal and ocean winds, which are only relevant to sailors and coastal dwellers. These marine are now shown in blue, whereas those relevant to land are shown in yellow, or red for severe warnings, storms and cyclones.

Secondly the Local Stations map view now has a new “Synoptic” view which shows traditional station wind arrows indicating wind direction and speed, as well as temperature and humidity where those data items are available. This really helps to get a sense of what winds are doing in the local area – especially helpful for people who do water-based sports, for example.

  • Each weather wind arrows has a circle as its head, showing the actual location of the observation on the map, and a tail with feathers on it.
  • The tail is drawn towards the direction from which the wind is coming, so that the arrow effectively points in the direction in which the wind is blowing.
  • Therefore, if the wind is northerly (coming from the north), the tail is drawn on the northerly side of the location circle.
  • The feathers on the tail indicate the wind speed. A long tick indicates 10 units of windspeed, and a short tick indicates 5. A filled triangle indicates 50 units.
  • The units used depends on your choice of windspeed units in the app settings. For example, if you have chosen kmh, then two large and one small feather ticks would indicate 25kmh.

Thirdly there is a new “State Temperatures” map view. Although it is intended mainly for viewing the latest regional or state temperatures, in fact it displays all recent temperatures around Australia as a whole. The temperature labels are color-coded by temperature on a sliding scale, so wide-scale temperature patterns are easily visible at a glance. Check out the chilly alpine weather in the following screen-shot showing Melbourne, eastern Victoria and southern NSW (10:30am, 18th July 2010)!

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App Store Icon Rendering Change

The Oz Weather v1.3.1 update was approved and appeared on the app store today.

This version is a maintenance release only (no new features added), but does have some changes which will improve the user experience significantly.

  • It has a faster load time – at least 2 seconds faster than v1.3
  • The splash screen now matches the user-selected theme
  • Sunrise/set times and some other options are now switched on by default, instead of requiring user to go into Settings on their iPhone

However, one completely unexpected change is in the appearance of the app icon. Although no changes were made to the icon or to the entry in Info.plist which instructs Apple not to add any shine, the icon now appears with a lot of added shine and a new bevel or border.

Icon changes

I’m not sure whether the new appearance is an improvement or not. My initial reaction is that the shine effect is too strong. However, I’m sure our users will let us know one way or the other! And that’s something I love about being an app developer. Really, I do mean it. 🙂

Stop Press

According to @stroughtonsmith (twitter): “Always re-upload your large icon art after you update your binary, or it will ignore your UIPrerenderedIcon key and add gloss.”

After doing this, and waiting several hours for the changes to propogate through the app store, the appearance of the icon has now reverted to normal. It appears that the bevel or border effect was an artefact of the additional shine.

So other app developers take note! If you switch off icon rendering, remember to re-upload your large icon art work each time you update your binary.

Oz Weather v1.3 Released – Hits #1 Ranking

iTunes Rankings

A couple of days ago the latest update to Oz Weather – v1.3 – was approved for sale by Apple. There are some major enhancements. A lot of work went into this one!

Shortly after release of the new version, Oz Weather finally jumped into #1 spot in paid app rankings in the Australian iTunes store. I’ll cover the effects of this on sales figures in a future blog post. 🙂

From the appearance angle, there is a striking new icon (emphasizing the Australia-only weather focus of the app) and a range of fun new background color themes to choose from – just in case anyone tires of seeing the same app colour scheme day after day – as you might only in app that typically gets daily use.

Oz Weather v1.3

As with previous improvements to the app appearance, I’ve got Peter Fellows to thank for this great design work.

From the functionality point of view, there are several big advances too. Although I’d covered most of the available Bureau of Meteorology forecast locations in previous versions, this version covers all available forecast locations, and for each one will display current weather from up to the 6 nearest observations locations in each case – accessible via the famous side-swipe action that is so often admired in the iPhone’s much more basic built-in weather app.

There is also a new “Capital Cities” item which allows you to see forecasts for the 7 main capital cities all on one page, and to side-swipe through the latest observations for each one, or tap on a city’s forecast line to jump straight to its current observations.

Capital Cities Adelaide Observations

There are also a range of other new features and enhancements like

  • Sunrise and sunset times for today
  • Forecast min and max temperatures displayed on current observations page
  • Dates added to day name on forecast page

You can choose whether or not to enable these new features by going to your iPhone’s home page, selecting the “Settings” icon, and then scrolling down to the “Oz Weather” entry in the list of application settings.

I’ve actually had a lot of fun building this, and the jump is rankings and sales is very gratifying. But it remains to be seen how durable this will be. There is currently an extreme heatwave hitting Melbourne and Adelaide and this could account for a general increase in weather app sales. In fact competing apps have also done very well in the rankings at the same time despite having had no recent updates or icon changes, which does seem to suggest that the unusual/extreme weather is affecting things. But I’ve also had some very positive feedback about the new design. WDYT?

Oz Weather v1.2 Released

An update to Oz Weatherv1.2 – has just been approved by Apple and released to the app store.

This update provides many new options to cater for special interests and patterns of usage – for example nautical users can now have windspeeds in knots, and observation mavens (like myself) can now get the app to open showing the observations page first. Fortunately this has all been possible without interfering with the simple and clear user interface. 🙂

This update was submitted on 11th December, so approval took 5 days (including a weekend).

Summary of Changes

  • New options which may be set via the iPhone’s home page under Settings / OzWeather
  • – selectable units for temperature, windspeed, rainfall, pressure (metric, imperial, nautical)
    – starting city option (last city / top city / list of cities)
    – starting weather page option (forecast / observations)
    – preload radar data (on / off)
    – remember radar location changes (on / off)
  • Addition of Marburg radar (west of Brisbane)
  • Several other minor fixes and enhancements

Explanation of New Options

To make changes to these options go to your iPhone’s Home Page and select the Settings icon. Then scroll down until you find the entry for “OzWeather“.

Oz Weather v1.2 Options

Startup Options

Open with

  • Last selected city – this option (the default setting) was always in effect in previous versions. It causes the app to always re-open showing data for the same city you had last been viewing.
  • City at top of list – when you edit the list of cities you can drag any selected city to the top, and typically you would put your home city there. The advantage of this option over the “last selected city” option is when you sometimes want to view weather in other cities than your own, but make sure it always start on your own
  • List of cities – if you often look at weather in different cities, then you might prefer to have a quicker startup which takes you to the list of cities, ready for you to select one.

First View

  • Forecast – this option (the default setting) was always in effect in previous versions. It shows you the forecast page first when the first city is selected/opened.
  • Observations – this shows you the current observations page when the first city is selected/opened.

NB – This option only affects the first city weather view during an application session. For any subsequent cities you choose, the application remembers which type of view you  last used.

Radar preloading

  • On (faster) – this option (the default setting) was always in effect in previous versions. It causes radar images to load at the same time as the forecast and observations data, so that when you view the radar image, is has typically already finished loading. Unless you have very limited data download allowance, this is generally the preferred option.
  • Off (less data) – this prevents radar images from loading until you actually choose to view them. This reduces your data download requirement, but introduces a delay before the images become available. This option might be useful if you don’t often view radar images and/or want to minimise the app data usage.

NB – A typical set of radar images for a city ranges from about 10kB to 40kB depending on how much rain activity is occurring.

Units

  • Temperature – you can choose between Celsius (C) and Fahrenheit (F)
  • Pressure – you can choose between hectoPascals (hPa) and inches of Mercury
  • Rainfall – you can choose between millimeteres (mm) and inches
  • Windspeed – you can choose kilometres per hour (km/h), metres per second (m/s), knots, miles per hour (mph)

NB – Sailors and others with nautical interests should choose knots for windspeed.

Radar Location

Remember changes

  • ON – this option was always in effect in previous versions. When you change the radar location, that changed location is remembered by the app next time you select the radar for the same city. This is useful is when you want to make a permanent change to which radar to use for the a city.
  • OFF – this is the new default option. It allows you to change radar locations without affecting the standard radar location for the current city, so next time you view weather for that city, the radar location won’t have changed.

NB – This option does not affect the radar range – only the radar location. Any changes you make to radar range are remembered for next time you view the radar for the same city.