ourcast

Sponsored Android App Review – Ourcast

August 2, 2012 - Written By Randy Arrowood


Ourcast for Android by Ourcast

Description
Ourcast is a simple weather forecasting application, but its much simpler than that basic description implies. Other weather apps want to guess at what the conditions will be like in your neighborhood over the next seven days, with few offering a best guess for conditions on a specific day and time. Ourcast tells you what the conditions are going to be like over the next two hours, in the area that you’re in broken down into ten minute intervals. Oh yeah, there’s a social layer too.



How it works
When you start Ourcast for the first time, you’re greeted by the forecast data for your area, along with a graphic indicating the current sky conditions and temperature. Below that, that’s where you’ll find the real selling point of the Ourcast app.

If you click on the orange Map button at the top of the screen, you’re taken to the radar image for the area that you’re currently in, with the mapping and radar data provided by the most excellent Weather Underground service. In addition to having your location marked on the map as you’d expect, you’ll also see little indicators that show where recent weather check-ins have come from in your neighborhood, or the area that you’re interested in.

By hitting the messaging icon you’re taken to the most recent check-in screen. From here, you’ll see who checked in, where they were located and what conditions they reported at the time of their check-in. The default screen shows you nearby check-ins, and it’s a pretty wide area of check-ins that are shown. The check-ins expire every few hours, so you won’t be stuck looking at user check-ins from last week, or even from yesterday. It’s an up-to-date list of observations from the area around where you are.

If you’re inclined to do so, you can also check-in with your current weather conditions at your location. This is the social layer that I briefly mentioned in the description of the app, but it isn’t as bothersome as some of the other apps that try to strap a social layer on top of their app.

With Ourcast, you can login with your Facebook ID to have your check-ins display your name and coarse location, but you don’t have to. If you’d prefer to contribute to the Ourcast conditions anonymously, they’ll take your weather report and leave your name out it. Likewise, if you want to share your weather report on Twitter or Facebook you can do that, but by default you are only sending your check-in info to Ourcast.

If you’re going to be a weather check-in junkie, you’ll need to do it about every two hours or so as your check-ins do expire. I say about every two hours because I didn’t see any indication on how long your current check-in is valid, and I didn’t go looking for the answer either.

Opinion
I plowed snow for a couple of winters a few years ago. Don’t laugh too hard, the hours are insane but so is the amount of money that people are willing to pay you to do it. When you’re faced with a potential 40+ hour work day (that’s right, I said day) you tend to become obsessed with not only trying to guess the weather over the course of a week or two, you also become very interested in the forecast for the next half hour or hour, you really want to know with some certainty when it’s going to stop. That’s what Ourcast does, it tells you when the rain (or snow) is coming, when it’s going, and it does it surprisingly well.

When I installed this app on Thursday afternoon there really wasn’t much happening with the weather in my area that day. The same for Friday, I had this neat app with a great idea, but when it’s sunny and warm you don’t really need a 10 minute update on the forecast, you’re kind of living a dream when can sit on your deck with your baby and take in the sights. Then the weekend happened.

On Saturday afternoon during the Cincinnati Reds game, Ourcast proved its worth. There were showers in our area, and though the local weather stations were insisting that the precipitation would miss the Great American Ballpark area entirely, Ourcast insisted that it was going to rain. I was stunned when it started raining during the 10 minute block of time that Ourcast indicated would be rainy.

My ears perked up and I really started to pay attention to Ourcast after that. The forecast told me that the rain would pick up in intensity for about 20 minutes, and right on cue, the rain started falling a bit harder. It wasn’t “Heavy Rain” like Ourcast indicated that it would be, but it was certainly heavier rain, and the heads up that it was coming was really appreciated.

Sunday? Well, Sunday was worse. My wife and baby were going shopping while I worked on a few projects around the house. Checking Ourcast, I was able to warn her in advance of the rain that looked like it might be coming based on the clouds in the sky, but that wasn’t all. Looking at the forecast screen in Ourcast I was able to tell her that over the next 30 minutes there was going to be heavy rain, that maybe she should drive the baby around for a short nap before heading to the mall. It turned out to be the best weather advice I’ve ever given.

The skies opened up and we had a very severe thunderstorm, with some of the heaviest rainfall that we’ve had all year. There were power outages, downed tree limbs on our street and a waterfall coming over our back hill. My wife and daughter were safe and dry enjoying a Starbucks instead of being caught in a parking lot at the mall.

Ratings

Speed – 5 / 5 – I’ve had no speed issues at all. The app loads and performs as expected.
Features – 4 / 5 – The only knock that I have is that there isn’t a link to 7 day forecasts.
Theme – 5 / 5 – It’s a clean, well designed app. No complaints about theme.
Overall – 5 / 5 –  Overall, I have to give it a 5. I might like to have a link to more forecast information, but that isn’t what Ourcast is trying to do.


Pros

  • Uses Weather Underground data with Google Maps integration.
  • Deadly accurate 10 minute micro forecasts, which is really surprising given that the Ourcast community of users is relatively small. As this 5 month old app and service gain traction, the micro forecasts will only get better.
  • If you know where the weather that affects your area tends to come from, it’s very easy to have a look at what is happening there right now too. It makes it fairly easy to get an idea of what conditions will be like beyond the two hour forecast window that Ourcast provides.


Cons

  • Facebook login only. I hate Facebook logins.
  • Going from the Map window to the Forecast window occasionally returned no micro forecast data and a temp of 32 degrees. It’s a minor bug that I submitted to Ourcast.
  • No link to any longer term forecast data.


Conclusion
I like to go hiking, spend time camping in the woods and fly fishing in the few waters around me where I can. More than a few times I’ve wanted a hyperlocal, micro forecast to tell me whether or not I need my Frog Togs or not, and Ourcast gives me that.

This is a well designed app that still lacks a massive community of users to draw data from, but delivers painfully accurate results in spite of that fact. With only three check-ins from my area on Sunday, all to the east of me and yet to see the weather that was heading my way, Ourcast told me that a storm was coming, when I’d see it here, and when it would be gone. It not only was accurate, it even got the 10 minute blocks of time right. The rain started when they said it would, and it cleared out on cue too.

In an era where nearly every app category bolts social integration into their app, it is easy to dismiss a new app that adds social where you wouldn’t expect it. Frankly, a weather app was one of the last places that I thought could benefit from social. Ourcast made me see why I write about apps instead of develop them.

Ourcast is free, it’s ad free and it’s available for Froyo and above. Aside from a minor refresh bug that I noticed, it ran perfectly well on my Galaxy Nexus running ICS 4.0.4. I did not have the opportunity to run the app on either of my tablets, though I wouldn’t expect to have issues there either.

Google Play Store Link: Ourcast