The new year is only a few days old, and I’ve been disappointed dozens of times already: once in a while, my muscle memory pulled my phone out of my pocket and flicked my thumb to where Dark Sky used to be. My weather app is dead, bought and removed by Apple, and I’m adrift. Don’t laugh at me and don’t think I’m being overly dramatic with this. It could start raining at any moment Y I have no idea
If you don’t know what Dark Sky was, well, maybe you better stop reading, lest you realize what you missed. If you know what Dark Sky was, you also loved and miss it and are still struggling to find a replacement app that can do what Dark Sky did: deliver hyper-local, very short-term forecasts in a nice, painless package. You would open the app and it would tell you that the rain was going to start in 17 minutes. Not 16 minutes, not 18 minutes, but 17. It told you how hard it was going to rain and when it was going to stop. It became an integral part of my outdoor routine. Do you know the key/phone/wallet frisking? To that, I added “verify Dark Sky”. Now it’s better that you never leave the house.
We enjoyed a decade of Dark Sky, which began as a Kickstarter project before launching the app in 2012. But the writing had been on the wall since 2020, when Apple, which has struggled to develop a good or popular weather app for its bill. , I buy. It wasn’t until last summer when the date of death was announced, and exactly at the stroke of midnight on New Years on the East Coast (believe me, I checked, and then checked a few more times, just in case), the iOS app shut down. Dark Sky features have supposedly been “built-in” into Apple’s native weather app, but I’ve spent the last few months on death march trying to train myself to use Apple Weather, and I still think it stinks of mondo. Nothing in that app is intuitive or beautiful; everything in it is more difficult to find and read.
One fun thing to note here is that Dark Sky’s big selling point wasn’t, according to actual forecasters, very good; the science behind their minute-by-minute precipitation forecast was pretty unscientific. What he was doing was, in simple terms, looking at the raindrops on the radar map and seeing how fast they were moving, and calculating how long would it take those spots to move to where you were.
“I was processing the images”, Andrew Blum told Slate. “[A]All he was doing was taking the visual input from the radar and extrapolating what would happen over the next two hours.”
Needless to say, meteorology is much more complicated than that:almost unimaginable and literally incalculably complicatedWhich is why smart, highly educated, and trained professionals using top-of-the-line hardware and software still have a hard time accurately predicting the weather for more than a few days. For a complex and ever-changing storm, even in its immediate path, Dark Sky’s engine “the blob was here, so it will be there” was an educated guess, well marketed.
Even so, Dark Sky hit more often than not, and hit often enough to be useful. But what really set the app apart from its peers, and where no other app currently on the market can replace it, was its recognition of the importance of design. It was a comfort to the eye and a joy to use. A minimalist display and an aesthetic that he would almost describe as organic: the graphics indicating rain were a pulsing, splattered blob, everything down to the radar map rendered in soothing shades of blue. And everything you needed was presented there, right there, either on the first screen or accessible with a tap. It felt like it was made for regular people, who didn’t want to learn the ins and outs of a full user interface to figure out what coat to wear.
An example: Do you want to know what the dew point will it be at 1:00 pm on Saturday? In Dark Sky, you could scroll down, tap once, and there it was, the dew point for each hour of each of the next 10 days. In Apple Weather it works: scroll, tap, tap the dropdown, tap, then tap and hold, and all you get is the dew point at a specific time. No one should have to live like this.
Ah, but there is no use crying over the spilled millibars. So what should we Dark Sky addicts do for our fix? I’ve tried a few alternatives and none have hit the spot. AccuWeather is impersonal and overly complicated. Weather Underground used to be decent until IBM acquired it and it went downhill. WeatherBug is useful but flawed. Carrot is unbearably cheesy. Apple Weather is… well, it’s a lot of things, but it will never be Dark Sky. It seems that for now, all we can do is lament the Silicon Valley habit of buying good things and making them worse, mourn what we’ve lost, and celebrate the time we’ve spent together. Next time I get caught in the rain, I’ll think of Dark Sky and how dry it could have been.