Weather or not: Minutely can tell you if you'll need a sweater

In San Francisco, it is often said that if you don’t like the weather, just walk a few blocks. Due to a marine layer and some incredibly varied topography, the temperatures here can vary remarkably within the length of a square mile, making it hard to know if you should bring an umbrella, or sunglasses. (So many people opt for both, which is…somewhat ridiculous to witness firsthand.)

Minutely's home screen provides plenty of data at a glance.

If you’d rather not haul a sweater and sunscreen around with you on the daily, then we've got good news. Monday marks the launch of Minutely, a weather map that features an up-to-the-minute 3D radar of the microclimate happenings in your ‘hood.

Created by Ourcast, Inc., which also produces the Ourcast weather app, Minutely is a silver lining for weather aficionados looking for the next big thing. Just recently approved by Apple, Minutely combines forecast data with crowdsourced corrections, displayed via real-time 3D images.

To drive this cool 3D radar display, Minutely actually uses a video game development engine, the Unity engine. Much like popular real-time traffic app Waze, Minutely uses crowdsourced data to give down-to-the-minute details on weather for a two-hour period.

Up-to-the-minute 3D radar view shows where you can expect showers.

Minutely also displays nine-day forecasts, sunrise and sunset times, a moon phase timeline, a full-day forecast description, a day and night mode, an activity feed, and Waze-like achievements and awards you earn by using more of the app's features. For example, you can check in with Facebook and Twitter to share the weather status of your neighborhood, or use the Correct the Forecast feature to update Minutely’s information for a location—which is great for days when the beach is busted instead of beautiful.

Hands-on impressions

Minutely's simple but pleasantly organized home screen displays your location, the current temperature, a quick-view cloud forecast icon (which can be updated by tapping on it), and a two-day forecast. From here, tapping either of the "View more" links shows you an extended nine-day forecast, or an hourly forecast for that day. Rotating your phone into landscape mode displays a 24-hour temperature graph, which gives you a single view of how the temperature and chance of precipitation will change throughout the day.

The top navigation has tabs for both "Report" and "Map." Tapping the Map view allows you to access both the real-time 3D radar view as well as a flat map with the "Rain Slider." The slider lets you pinpoint a moment in time, from right now through the next two hours, to see where rain is likely to occur—you'll see the cloud patterns move across the map as you slide your finger. Small cloud icons, similar to the ones on the home screen, appear on the map where a crowd-sourced report has been filed.

Turning your phone into landscape shows a handy graph of temperature and chance of precipitation.

While we really enjoyed using the Rain Slider, the map's zoom features don't permit you to dive much deeper than neighborhood level, which is a distinct drawback. Likewise, while using the Report feature, the app crashed every time we attempted to take a photo to add to our report. (Using images already in our camera roll, however, worked without any issues.) Another potential rain cloud? Minutely requires that users register with either a Facebook or a Twitter account.

While there are dozens (and dozens) of weather apps vying for your attention, Minutely definitely manages to stand out with a simple, friendly design and some exclusive features. Minutely is currently being offered for free (to “early adopters”) on the iOS App Store, and an Android version is coming soon.

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