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iPhone / Android Apps vs. Websites - The Weather Channel

Is there really a need for all these smartphone apps for current information, like news, sports, finance, and weather? After all these are plenty of websites that will provide this kind of info, and even let you configure customized listings. Yet there are entire categories in the iPhone App Store and Android Market dedicated to each of these!

Well, actually, while web browsers are great for, well, browsing though a variety of sites, a dedicated app can provide a much better experience on a smartphone -- with the information formatted to fit the screen without clumsy zooming or scrolling, and one-tap access to further information though finger-sized controls and tabs. Plus, you can store and customize your personal information more conveniently.

No wonder, than that you'll find news apps for the AP and the BBC, and sports apps like CBS Sports and specific sports like the NBA. And for your finances you can download a general financial news tool, as well as dedicated apps from your bank to manage your accounts, like Bank of America. (These are available in both the App Store and Android Market.)

Even an apparently straightforward app like The Weather Channel (see iTunes preview) can provide an impressive range of useful features, albeit not all the same across all the supported platforms (it's free for the iPhone, Android, Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and BREW & Java).

Besides local forecasts and conditions (customized to your list of locations), the Weather app also displays a map view with animated radar / satellite and other customized overlays. Or you can watch local, national and international video forecasts, as on TV.

On the Android platform, The Weather Channel takes advantage of several additional useful features. You can configure small widgets to display on the main home screen, showing current weather summaries for selected locations. (With Android, can configure the home screens with your preferred layout of favorite app shortcuts and widgets -- see Verizon Droid article.)

Even better, the app can run in the background on Android, checking for weather alerts, and then warn you of impending issues using the Notifications area across the top of the screen (the red circle with the exclamation mark). Just pull down and tap to launch the app and display the text of the alert from the National Weather Service.

As a result, the weather alerts can be treated in a standard way, like other notifications like alarms or incoming text messages -- and without interrupting your work in progress, so you can then review and choose how to respond to them when you're ready.

See my Smartphone Apps Gallery for more on apps and app stores.

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