At the last MyMobileVille meetup, I was the proud winner of the PYKL3 Radar app drawing. Being a South Florida resident, I had visions of all the ways this app would be useful to me, both professionally and personally. Yes, I’m the geek that gets excited when there is a storm brewing in the tropics. I’m the one trying to predict whether its heading our way. I’m the one checking Weather Underground 10 minutes before the National Weather Service (NWS) official reports. I’m the one signed up to get text and email alerts. And, I’m the one jumping up and down like a giddy schoolgirl asking if its time to enact our DR and BCP plans. Besides, its a little known fact that us SFL residents are all amateur meteorologists and I’m no exception to the rule… but I digress.
Admittedly, soon after the meet-up, my excitement had waned. There wasn’t anything brewing in the tropics and I had moved on to searching the interwebz for rumors and innuendo about the upcoming Galaxy Nexus phone and Ice Cream Sandwich… hey its closest this lactose intolerant geek will come to enjoying one! That was, until Tuesday night. I’m chillaxing on the couch with Mr. Oliver sitting next to me when my MT4G starts to blow up with emails and texts. Turns out, there is a nasty cell, traveling at 40 MPH, with wind gusts up to 70 MPH and capable of spurring tornadoes heading towards the house. My husband looks at the time and flips to a local new station. That’s when it hit me – time to download the PYKL3 Radar app I won at the meetup! I start the download, chase down Mr. O and put on his Thundershirt. I didn’t think to turn on the WiFi on my phone, so it took about 2 minutes to download the app and another 2 minutes to download the additional content that gets downloaded the first time the app is launched. For comparison, it took less time to perform these downloads onto my Transformer over WiFi.
The app uses crude GPS location to determine the closest radar so when you launch the app, it automatically connects to the closest one. It also uses this location to display at blinking triangle of your location in comparison to the approaching area of disturbed weather; great for projecting an ETA on the impending excitement. This app taps into the radars operated by the NWS, so you can go in and select other radars to look at once you’re in the app through the menu. For example, if you’re worried about grandma or curious about the weather in Kauai, HI, you can check on those locations as well.
After the initial downloads, the app opens up and retrieves the latest radar images within 15 seconds. On the night in question, as soon as those images popped up on my screen, a few expletives came out of my mouth, prompting my husband to ask if we should close the hurricane shutters…to which my reply was in the affirmative. Around this time, the text and email alerts are coming in every 30 seconds…flood warning…tornado watch…severe thunderstorm warning…meanwhile, the local news station has yet to get to their weather portion of the broadcast. At this point, I find myself grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, thinking to myself “Isn’t technology grand”. We were all hunkered down to brave Mother Nature’s finest within a few minutes, whereas, had we done it the old-fashioned way; waiting for the weather forecast, we’d still be twiddling our thumbs like we did in the days of dial-up waiting for a page to load.
In addition to radar imagery, the app also boasts satellite imagery, which I am admittedly excited to use during my next hurricane hunting adventure. Also, with a subscription to AllisonHouse, the app will provide lightning strike information. Also cool, there is a Text Discussion tab where you can read the discussions from the NWS for a given area. The UI is pretty straightforward, the menu button opens up the various options, like zoom, product selection, and loop options.
One downside to the app is that its a battery killer. It may not be the most practical choice when you’re huddled in a small walk-in closet riding out the storm with no electricity, no AC, stinky shoe smells, and no other connection to the outside world (Andrew)…unless, of course, your disaster kit includes charged extra batteries for your mobile device (Pro Tip). Also, the app runs in the background so if you hit the Home button, it will still continue to pick-up updated radar images approximately every five minutes…another battery killing feature that can be averted by exiting from the app when you’ve completed your investigation. I found it interesting that the dev’s Wiki has a section for Battery Optimization and that page currently has no text. Its also the biggest complaint in the Market reviews so I know its not just me. Honestly, with all this app does, I suspect its just one of those things that we’ll just have to deal with.
The only other caveat is that when the app updates, it makes a sound that kinda reminds me of a drop hitting a pool of water. Its a soothing sound, but Mr. O apparently doesn’t agree with me. While I tend to enjoy annoying Mr. O, there are times when him running around the house in a frenzy looking for the origin of the sound and barking from frustration is just too much…like when the husband is asleep. The reason I even mention this as an annoyance is because the notification goes off even if the phone is in Silent Mode. I’m certain there is a reason for it, but I’ll email the dev to ask anyway.
In conclusion, I have to say this app is fantastic. It has a lot more features than I have gotten a chance to use. I suspect that if I ever do win Power Ball, quit my job, and become a hobby storm chaser, this app will be even more useful than it currently is for this self-proclaimed amateur meteorologist. It carries a $9.99 price tag from the Android Market, but it’s worth every penny if you’re like me…fascinated by the fury that is Mother Nature’s scorn. Or perhaps your an IT person that needs to decide whether or not enacting a DR or BCP plan is called for. Maybe, you’re just someone that has a family you want to keep safe. Maybe you’re none of the above or maybe you’re all of the above but if you’re looking for a app that gives you up-to-date imagery, this app belongs in your repertoire.