Mobility Digest Review: Elecont Weather
For those running the classic Today screen or Titanium on their WM 6.X device, you might want to take a close look at Elecont Weather. Of course, its an app so it will work on any Windows Mobile (Professional or Standard) device, but the plug-in is what makes this app extra special.
INTRODUCTION: Elecont Weather is a virtual weather station, providing; current forecast, 24 hr. barometric pressure, 10 day forecast graph and "per day" detail view, 12 and 48hr; temperature, precipitation and UV views, ice alerts, weather alerts and fifteen different map/satellite views for 67,000 worldwide locations using Intellicast. Possibly with the exception of the Options screens, Elecont Weather is "finger friendly" throughout. Everything about this app is very intuitive. The developer has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about how users will interact with Elecont Weather and put forth a very customizable and dependable application. I have purchased/tested a half dozen $$$ weather apps and nothing comes close to Elecont Weather, scoring high points in every category. And while a few of the "free" weather apps are very good at what they do, most lack critical features including; a today plug-in and automatic updates, delegating them to secondary app status.
OPTIONS: Elecont Weather offers a long list of configurable options, like: 12 different 1, 2 or 3 line Today screen plug-in views, 38 different Units combinations (temp, pressure, wind speed, etc.), 6 different animation configurations (5 sec. to infinite), 13 different languages, 6 different icon collections and 12 different themes/color configurations. There are also options to show/hide; arrows, barometer, low temperature and city selection on the plug-in as well as configuring; sound, vibration or double touch, a really nice feature when trying to flick through your cities without inadvertently launching the app. You can configure the size and color of the text and background on the plug-in as well. Additionally, you can tell Elecont Weather when to automatically update for each of the following; GSM, WiFi, connected to PC or when Roaming. Options include; Manually, every 10 or 30 min, every 1, 2, 4, 8 or 12 hrs, or each; midnight, 4, 6, 8am or 8pm. You can even set a global time range for updating; like not between 11:00pm and 6:00am. Finally, you can tell EW what kind of connection to use, proxy settings if needed, and allow/disallow EW to create a connection to the Internet. Hey, I did warn you that it’s a long list.
PLUG IN: The plug-in is not your typical five day forecast which IMHO is useless. Does anything change more than the weather. I don’t care what the little icon says four days from now cause it’s bound to change at least a couple times before then. Tell me what is happening now, including any rise/drop in pressure, wind speed and humidity, today and maybe tomorrow. Anything beyond that is nothing more than a guess. Elecont Weather gives you several plug-in options for 1, 2 or 3 lines depending upon your space availability, although 3 line is the most robust and best looking view. Views include; hour by hour (condition icons with temp by hour), three day (condition icons and high/low temp), three day-detail (now view: condition icon, barometer, temp and 3 day condition icons with high/low temp) and one day-detail view (now view: condition icon, barometer, temp, condition, and wind). For all of the views, a swipe left to right will bring up the next city in your queue (you can identify as many cities as you like) and a swipe right to left will display the next; 3 hours, 3 day group or day for the selected city up to the full 10 day forecast. With all that detail you almost never need to launch the app, although you will probably want to anyway. The weather indicating icons (sun, clouds, rain, snow, etc.) animate when active only for the time set in Options, as a means to conserver battery power and resources. Speaking of the battery, EW has negligible impact on battery drain, unlike at least one other popular weather plug-in that will remain nameless. The Elecont Weather plug-in runs a process in the background, consuming about 600K and 0.05 to 0.30% of CPU. One of the best features is the plug-in time stamp which tells you how many minutes, up to 120, since the last update. After 120 minutes, the plug-in reports updates in hours. Great when you want to know if the forecast is stale.
Speaking of updates, every other weather app I have used or tried with automatic updates utilized the Notification Queue to manage periodic updates, usually every one or two hours in my case. As any longtime WM user knows, the Notification Queue is unreliable at best and invariably, my weather app would just stop updating without warning and without indicating on the plug-in that it had. It would usually take about a day for icons to start disappearing from the plug-in, requiring me to launch the app and maybe toggle the update settings to recreate a notification and start the process over again. What good is an app that automatically updates the weather if 50-75% of the time the weather is not up to date. Not very. Elecont Weather uses a whole different process to run updates, not associated with the Notification Queue. Don’t know how it works, but I can tell you that it does and very reliably. And if for some reason it misses an update (I have it set for every 2 hours) it will try again, and again. And if your GSM connection happens to be off when an update is due, EW will establish a connection, run its update quickly, and promptly close the connection, whether your device is awake, asleep or whatever. All very efficient. A beautiful thing to see. I have 4 cities defined and update every 2 hours (12 times per day) which adds up to about 200K daily (not including map/radar views). Not bad.
The Titanium plug-in is a bit less robust but still provides an easy to look at view. The non-highlighted view shows a weather icon (sorry, no animation) with current temp and condition. Tapping the tab displays the Now view, with icon and high/low temp for current and the next three days. A swipe left or right moves forward/back through your cities. The city and update timestamp is visible at the bottom of the tab. Just like the Today plug-in, a double tap will open the application.
THE APP: When you open Elecont Weather it always starts on the Main screen with City selection across the top, Now and 10 day Forecast/Temp icons down the left edge and Current (Now) Weather Conditions with 10 Day Temperature/Conditions graph. Tapping the graph cycles through; barometric pressure or high/low temperature for the past 24 hours and back to 10 day graph. Current (Now) conditions include; temp, pressure, wind speed/direction, humidity and visibility. Tapping any Day icon along the left edge changes the view (and starts the icon animation), providing a more detailed forecast with; high/low temp, wind speed/direction, chance of precip, UV Index, humidity, sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, moon phase and a day/evening forecast. BTW, Elecont Weather works equally well on VGA and WVGA devices. If there is too much info to fit in the top or bottom forecast boxes, tapping the box will bring it forward allowing you to view the content. To change the current city, tap the left/right arrows at the top of the screen or tap the current city and select a new city from the drop-down list. All of the relevant weather info changes instantly.
ADDING/CHANGING CITIES: Adding or editing a city is simple. Tap Menu/List of Cities. Here you can rename your city if you prefer and also indicate whether you want each city to display on the Today screen. Nice if you only want to see your current city in Today but multiple cities within the app. You can also "delete" an existing city. Tap "Add city" to get started. A predefined list of popular countries is displayed, with your last selection selected. You can tap Other Countries to see the full list. Tap OK and an extensive list of Cities/States appears in alphabetical order. Save yourself some trouble and rather than trying to scroll this extensive list, start entering your city in the box at bottom and the list will filter down based on the letters you typed. When you see your city tap it and you are done. Or just enter a zip code and EW will find your city for you.
NAVIGATION: The are three icons along the bottom of the screen. The first always takes you back to the Home screen. The Clock icon opens 12 hour view which displays as a clock face, showing the current conditions, and temperature+forecast icon for the next 11 hours. Tapping the clock face cycles to show; precipitation or UV level over the next 11 hours and then back to the temperature screen. Umbrella and sun icons tell you which view you are in. A fourth icon is visible at the bottom of the screen in this view which takes you to 48hr view. This view gives you an hour-by-hour look at; condition, high temp, precipitation and UV level. A graph at the bottom of the screen shows the UV index and high temp over the next 48 hours, with an icon that moves along the temperature line, depending on which hour you tap. Condition, as in; cloudy, scattered thunderstorms, sunny, clear, etc., is displayed based on the hour selected.
The last bottom screen icon will glow red and show any weather alerts (if there are any) when tapped. The icon also doubles as the radar/map selector. This is a brand new feature for Elecont Weather and is still a work-in-progress. The screen has 15 buttons for views like; current satellite, current temps, current precips, AM/PM precip forecast, current winds, humidity, sunshine/max or min temp for tomorrow, radar, infrared satellite and forecast total precip. Tapping any button will launch your web browser and display the associated map. Tapping your (hard) back button will take you back to EW where you can select another button to view a different map without having to close your browser. Not perfect, but a good start. In any of the views, the City selector is always visible so you can jump around at will. No waiting for info to refresh. Everything is as current as the most recent update, which is displayed on the Home and 12 Hour views.
SUMMARY: Overall, a well thought out weather application that gives you all the info you will ever need. And IMHO the absolute best Today plug-in, as well as one of very few bug free Titanium plug-in’s available. The app is constantly being updated with enhancements. One of the most recent was integration with the ever popular S2U2 Screen Lock, a very good thing. The developer actually reads his forums and usually replies within 24-48 hours. You can get Elecont Weather directly from the site http://www.elecont.com/weather-for-pocket-pc.aspx for $9.95 or Windows Marketplace for $9.99. Both sites offer a fully functional free trial.
FYI, the app is large (4.5MB+) but don’t let that scare you. A lot of that is themes and alternate icon packs. Go ahead and load it on your Storage Card. Perfectly safe and suggested. The primary components of the app get loaded into a folder within \Windows (about 2.4MB) and data is stored in Application Data. Another first for a Today plug-in app; EW will completely uninstall, even when active, should you no longer want/need it. The developer recommends uninstalling for updates (which is fairly frequent) and it works like a breeze.