Solar Weather Review

Today, we are celebrating something new.  It’s almost the end of January, and we are expanding our site.  We have been doing game reviews for a good while now, and we feel we have been successful enough that we want to expand the range of our content.  While there are several different kinds of games that we offer reviews for, and will continue to do so, there is more we can do.  Apart from games, there is also a fair selection of Apps available on the system.  As of today, we will start reviewing games as well as apps.

Apps are what is bringing the PlayStation Vita, and other gaming systems, out of solely have its use being for playing video games to being a multi-function device.  With the PlayStation Vita’s Operating System and Live Area interface being very similar to the interfaces of Mobile systems like iOS and Android, the system is slowly becoming a multi-function system.  With apps coming out like Mail, Facebook, Livetweet, and more, you can do many different things on the PlayStation Vita.

One thing that the PlayStation Vita has been missing for quite a long time is a Weather app.  All Mobile devices have apps that help you figure out the temperature of your area as well as the weather forecast of the coming days.  Some apps are called The Weather Channel or just plain Weather, and normally come bundled with devices.  Thanks to PlayStation Mobile and a recent update, the PlayStation Vita has access to a Weather app through Solar Weather (called Sola Weather on the PS Store), developed by ZHANG BO.  Here is our official review of Solar Weather.

Functionality

Functionality is one thing that all apps will need to address.  Essentially, functionality is a collection of what the app does, and how it does it.   With weather-central apps, the function of the app is to let the user check the weather.  While there is always the option of hopping into the Web Browser and pull up The Weather Channel web site, there is a reason that apps exist for this.  They pull the weather up faster and without having to put in an address or zip code each time you want to check the weather.

Solar Weather is one of these apps that can automatically do this.  The PlayStation Vita has a Location Services feature built into it, just as smartphones and tablets do for other Mobile Operating Systems.  So long as this is enabled, the apps can use the Internet to use a GPS system and figure out your exact location.  When you first boot up the app, it will give you a notice about the Location Services, and instruct you to visit the Settings area to enable it if it is not currently enabled.

Once this is enabled, it will automatically use those services to locate the closest city and automatically load the current weather for that city.  My closest city is Cincinnati, Ohio, so whenever I open up the App, it shows the weather for Cincinnati.  It will display the current temperature, time, weather conditions (such as if it is snowing, raining, high winds, etc), and a basic forecast for the next three days.

The app definitely does well at what it does, though the information it gives you can be a bit limited, which will be explained in a further section of this review.

Interface

The interface of an app is how you move throughout the app and edit or do different things.  With a weather app, there isn’t a whole to do, but it does have a basic interface for the few things that are available for it.  All of these options are used with the touch screens, so the PlayStation Vita’s buttons will be taking the back seat, outside of manually typing in City names in the Search feature.

On the main screen of the app, there are three on-screen buttons that you are able to interact with.  The first at the bottom-left corner is a Refresh Button.  The use of this button is to refresh the weather conditions, in case the forecast for the coming days, or even the current day has changed since the time you first opened up Solar Weather.  This is useful if you have harsh conditions in your area that are constantly changing ferocity, such as in the middle of a snowstorm or a flashflood.

The second button is for Temperature Models, located in the bottom-right corner of the screen.  The button with either have an F or C displaying on it, which stand for Farenheight and Celsius.  These are the two mainstream temperature models that nearly the entire world utilizing in thermometers, thermostats, and weather devices.  The letter displaying the one that is currently being used.  Tap on this button to switch to the other model.  By default, it was set to Celsius, and I switched to use Farenheight.

The last button on the main screen is at the top-left corner.  There is a Settings icon next to the city name that’s currently being displayed.  Tapping on this takes you to a search window, which allows you to search for any major city in the world to see temperatures for those areas.  This is useful for checking areas where friends or family are to tell them about the weather or upcoming weather, or to check the weather for a place you’re planning on traveling to.

It’s a pretty simple interface, for the most part.  While there are no directions for how to use the app, it was relatively easy to figure out how to use, once Locations Services was enabled.

Performance

Performance is a key factor for any app, whether it designed for weather, social media, email, or something else.  An app can have wonderful features, but if it doesn’t work very well, can really be a turn-off from some audiences.  Solar Weather is one of those apps that doesn’t perform as well as it probably could, and that is definitely something to think about before you go and buy it, even for its measly price of $0.49.

The first thing I will mention is Load Time.  When you first start up Solar Weather, it takes a good amount of time to boot up and load your weather.  I compared this, side by side, between Solar Weather and The Weather Channel app for Windows.  Solar Weather took a substantially greater amount of time to load, taking 28-30 seconds to load the interface and the weather for Cincinnati, whereas The Weather Channel on Windows took about 6 seconds to load the same amount of content.  That is something that definitely is a downer for Solar Weather.

Another thing to consider is the selection of cities available.  With most weather apps, you can input any town in the world and get weather for that, specific town.  Searching in Solar Weather is tricky.  I tried to search for many towns in my area, including Amelia, Bethel, Georgetown, Milford, and others.  Unfortunately, none of them came up with anything from the Search Results.  That is, until I realized the format of the names.  The search results will bring up pretty much any town, but you must have your search terms have all lower-case letters.  Even having a capital letter as the first letter of the city name and it will not bring anything up.  This is something they will need to work on in a future update.

If you’re using Location Services and just want to know the weather near you, the app works well, but otherwise, there are many things it need to address in future versions.

Overall

All in all, the PlayStation Vita is lacking weather apps.  Solar Weather is a decent app for checking the weather, although search is tricky until you learn how to properly do it.  If you can look past the load times for the app as well as the fact that there are no notifications for weather alerts, Solar Weather is the best weather application on the Vita, though that isn’t saying much since it’s the only weather app on the Vita.  For $0.49, it’s worth being able to check the weather straight from an app, albeit one in need of updates.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Solar Weather a 5.5/10.

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