WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app

WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app

Environment Canada’s new app WeatherCan is a must have for Canadians. The app moved out of beta testing and is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. A quick note: this is an app geared towards Canadians and not applicable outside of our borders.

I’ve been using WeatherCan for a few months now since it was in beta. It’s run on two phones – both budget smartphones – and worked flawlessly.  I’ve played around with dozens of weather apps over the years, usually tearing them out quickly because they are resource hogs or heat the phone up (on two occasions, dangerously so). I’m pleased to say this one does neither.  It’s fast response time, even on a low-end phone, was a surprise. Another positive, WeatherCan doesn’t drain the battery, even when allowing notifications and real time updates.

Best weather app for Canadians

There isn’t a lot to be said about the app – it works well, it doesn’t crash, and it’s pleasing to look at. The visuals are clean and easy to understand. If you’re familiar with the Environment Canada website, it’s pretty much the same. The big bold images, and lack of clutter makes WeatherCan one of the better weather apps out there.

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing current temp

Weather looks a bit chilly

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing hourly temp changes

Easy to understand interface

WeatherCan packs a lot of information on each screen. 

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app

Detailed single day screen

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app

A week at a glance

The only flaw** I could find is the lack of ability to turn off weather notifications for other regions/provinces. For a few weeks, I was hammered with weather alerts for Sask. On the upside, I learned to appreciate how truly bad Sask. winters can get. Maybe it’s part of Environment Canada’s cunning plan.

** update: this glitch has been fixed and no longer sends erroneous weather alerts – Dec 14/20

Look for the WeatherCan app in Google Play and the Apple Store or go directly to Environment Canada’s page   –  WeatherCan. If you download the app, drop a note in the comments and let me know how it runs on your phone.

NOTE: minor updates to grammar and information regarding the app made Dec. 14, 2020.

App Reviews – defining the good, the bad and the downright unuseable

App Reviews – defining the good, the bad and the downright unuseable

App Review bannerWhen I’m testing an app, a list of things run through my mind, ranging from “does it work” to “would I recommend it”. In the early days of Windows Store (back in the dark days of Windows 8), the platform was a mess – the land of crap apps and rip off artists and I rarely looked at the apps seriously. Many talented, independent developers likely took one look at the nightmare and took off. The store lagged for a long time, even after the clean-up. I’m happy to report I I’ve noticed a serious uptick in the quality and diversity of apps offered in the last 6 or 7 months.

So what is my App Tick List?

  1. Functionality – Can I customize things like font size and background? Can I turn off certain features? Did the developer create a cross platform app I can load onto my phone, tablet and laptop? Developers who take into consideration people with vision or mobility issues receive extra marks.
  2. Purpose – what is the app supposed to do. I’m periodically surprised by the odd Frankenapp that doesn’t seem to have clear purpose or focus. The developer started off with one concept and then threw everything else into the app. Keep the app focused and clean. Save the other stuff for new apps.
  3. Load time and stability – If I’m left tapping my toes waiting for the app to start I’m going to rethink it’s value. If it periodically crashes when it’s starting that’s a big strike. And if it crashes on all my devices, well that app will be kicked to the curb. I can forgive an app that has issues with one modest phone, I can’t if it crashes across the board.
  4. App size – along with load time is app bloat. Neither my phone nor my tablet is a Tardis, they aren’t bigger on the inside. I pick and choose apps carefully. If your app is large, give me a reason to keep it installed (see items 1 and 2)
  5. WYSIWYG – this is important. If the user has to struggle to understand how to use the app, it’s not well designed. The app should be intuitive … but I’ll throw in a caveat. Not all apps are designed for the average user. Some demand a certain level of computer knowledge because of their target market. That being said, if you are targeting people who don’t spend their lives living at the keyboard, then you better make sure it will be easy to use.
  6. Curb appeal –   A shocking number of app developers haven’t figured out it’s a competitive world. Their app is tossed into the deep end of a mosh pit along with thousands of others, all competing for the buyer’s attention. It doesn’t matter how great the app is, if it looks like crap on a cracker, the consumer won’t take the time to look at it.
  7. Branding – this is a subset of curb appeal. Put effort into your brand including the tile icon. I don’t want a sea of bland gray icons & jaggy images, with no brand identity cluttering up my screen. There’s a basic functionality behind putting effort into designing an icon for your app – quick identification. Pick up your phone or tablet and play spot the apps. The ones you use the most are the ones that offer instant identification – think of Twitter, Instagram, FB. These logos, modest though they may be, make it easy for users to spot them. They are iconic for a reason. If I have to spend time scrolling back and forth trying to figure out which app is which, I can guarantee they will be deleted. When a developer spends time creating their brand, they also lay the groundwork for future app purchases because consumers remember them. It’s marketing 101.
  8. Price – if a developer wants me to pay $9.99 for their app, they should have a preview I can test drive. They better have a method of contacting them if something goes wrong. We’re back to the mosh pit idea. I don’t mind spending a few dollars on an app if it offers me a feature I want or, it has that curb appeal missing on many apps. I think of my few dollars as encouraging developers to keep up the good work.
  9. Spammobiles – the app is nothing more than a vehicle to spam ads to unwary customer. Ads are cool. I have no issue with them. Developers have bills to pay. It’s the egregious placement of them that is the problem. I’ve toasted a number of apps because ads popped up and filled the screen while I was trying to use a feature. Don’t steal my screen … just don’t. Or the ad is placed in a spot that makes it impossible to avoid tapping it. Nothing pisses me off faster. Worse, it’s impossible to dismiss the ad on small screens without actually tapping on it and forcing my browser to start. As well, if the app was designed simply as a vehicle to showcase ads, then it gets an automatic clickbait tag.

Curb appeal, branding and functionality are the big three items. Scoring well on those can mitigate flaws, with the exception of spammobiles. They can an automatic boot to App Hell. App reviews are tricky. I try to be balanced in any evaluation and avoid undo nastiness that is too prevalent in the on-line world. I remind myself someone put effort into the project and may be learning how to develop or had a great idea but didn’t know how to deliver a marketable project.