Getty ImagesDrew Angerer
Because they can track your location, smartphone weather apps can deliver up-to-the-moment specific info about the conditions where you are. But it turns out that comes with a price. In the summer of 2017, a security research project accused the popular AccuWeather app of selling users’ location data to a third-party advertising firm. WeatherBug was accused of doing something similar, and now the Weather Channel (which also owns the immensely popular Weather Underground app) has been hit with a lawsuit from the city of Los Angeles for covertly mining user data, a charge the company denies.
Here’s the good news: There are alternatives to those huge free apps that not only refrain from selling your data (as far as we know) but also provide deeper and more interesting information about the weather. Here are seven alternatives for the occasional user or the full-blown storm chaser.
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Best Overall: Dark Sky
Dark Sky has long been considered one of the best weather apps out there. Drawing data from its own weather service, the app provides up-to-the-minute weather information and a variety of other useful information as well.
It also helps that the company has been particularly vocal against misusing user data and has been transparent about how its users’ data is stored and shared. Also, with a up-front cost of $4, Dark Sky has less incentive to monetize your information, and as the developers said in a 2017 blog post: “We don’t now—and never will—share your location data with 3rd party advertisers or data monetization companies.”
Best Design: Carrot Weather
If you like a little snark with your weather apps, Carrot Weather has been providing up-to-date forecasts and comedy for years, and it recently migrated to Android. Its personality ranges from lighthearted to irreverent and you can tweak Carrot’s personality to your tastes (or turn it off entirely). Just don’t be offended if your weather app calls you a “meatbag.”
With four separate weather sources at its disposal, including Dark Sky, it’s one of the most accurate weather apps out there.
Carrot Weather’s developer Brian Mueller has also been very vocal about its data practices in the wake of recent controversies, stating that, “Carrot will never sell your location information to third parties. Full stop.”
Best Weekly Forecast: Flowx
Flowx is an app jam-packed with information at just a glance. Although not a great option for daily planning, the Flowx really shines as a weeklong forecast so you can plan the perfect time for that weekend hike. Its simple slide navigation also makes storm-tracking a mesmerizing experience.
Flowx also downloads with location tracking turned off by default, so you’re safe there as well.
Best Storm Tracker: RadarScope
Android iOS Windows
If you want to get really into the weeds, then RadarScope is the app you’re looking for. The app of choice for storm chasers, from amateur to professional, RadarScope gives you incredibly detailed information on coming storms and other weather patterns.
With access to 233 radar points and NEXRAD data, a constellation of Doppler radar arrays controlled by the National Weather Service, RadarScope gives you all the data you’d ever need on that dark cloud forming overhead.
It’s available on every platform imaginable, even Apple TV, and prices range from $10 (for mobile) t0 $30 (for desktop), and professional tiers come with a yearly subscription if you really want to get serious.
Best UI: Google
Of course, you can always just go with the devil you know. Google’s come along way with what it provides when you search weather in your area. On stock Android phones, this feature comes fully loaded but can be accessed on iPhone or other Android phones by downloading the Google app.
Like it or not, Google already has lots of data on you. At least this way you’re not giving it away to another company.
Best for Accuracy: Create a NOAA Shortcut
As Outside Magazine notes, the National Weather Service does not have a weather app. So if you see one that says NOAA in the app store, it’s not anything official from the U.S. government.
But you can create a helpful shortcut to NOAA on your smartphone’s home screen. Weather.gov walks through how to do this on both iPhone and Android.
Best DIY: Netatmo Weather Station
There’s always the DIY solution: build your own home weather station and get hyperlocal data that’s delivered to your device.
We like the Netatmo Weather Station because it comes with a design you won’t might sitting inconspicuously on your kitchen counter. Netatmo’s weather app does have a feature where you can share your data with its user-generated weather map, but this feature is optional if you’re worried about privacy concerns.
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