Apple, Dark Sky, and the future of hyper-personal weather

March 31 on the Dark Sky Blog, Adam Grossman dropped these bombshell announcements:

  • Dark Sky has joined Apple.
  • There will be no changes to Dark Sky for iOS at this time.
  • The Android and Wear OS Apps will no longer be available for download
  • Same for the actual weather parts of the website.
  • The API will no longer take new signups but will continue functioning through the end of 2021.

Now, Dark Sky was really only available in the U.S. and U.K., so this doesn’t affect most of the world. Though, people in the U.S. and U.K. who preferred it are obviously super affected by this.

The API part sucks for apps like CARROT and WeatherLine, at least in those countries, but it sounds like they’ll be ok.

A lot of people are upset about losing the Android app, which I totally get.

Dieter Bohn, in his Processor newsletter, said it felt petty, both fairly because that’s how Android users feel, and wildly unfairly because Apple doesn’t run a charity.

But… it’s actually not odd to me that Apple is killing the Android and Wear OS apps. It’s odd to me they’re keeping the iOS app.

The Dark Sky team is going to be just loaded up at Apple, similar to how the Workflows team was before Siri Shortcuts was announced. And, they kept the Workflows app going in maintenance mode, but they didn’t have an Android version to maintain.

Beddit, which hasn’t seen an Apple rebirth yet, dropped Android support a while back.

Beats, which became Apple Music, still has both iOS and Android versions.

My guess with Beats is that staying cross-platform gives them a better chance at throwing big numbers up against Spotify, especially for family subscriptions for mixed-device households. In other words, it’s a competitive space where Apple has to go to customers, not the other way around. Same reason TV+ was announced for Samsung before it even launched.

Dropping the Android app makes me think Apple isn’t planning a subscription weather services. At least not yet.

And if the idea of a subscription weather service sounds funny, remember many weather apps are subscription based because they have to pay for the weather data.

Apple could more easily swallow the costs for an iOS-only service, or, rather, subsidize them with hardware profits like it does iMessage and FaceTime.

But why would Apple want a hyper-regional, hyper-localized weather app?

My best guess is to make it less hyper-regionalized and add the hyper-localized features as data layers to iPhones, Apple Watches, and whatever comes next.

Apple has a mixed track record with international, I’ll give you that. TV+ and Music launchd in well over 100 countries each. Apple Cash and Apple Card are still U.S. only and Apple News, barely more than that. Which is super frustrating to customers who feel like they pay more for the products but get less in terms of features. Again, if you want to see a video on that, let me know in the comments.

But, the ability to have precise precipitation forecasts, down to the minute, down to the meter, could be beyond compelling.

Neil Cybart on Above Avalon said much the same. That building it into Apple Watch today, and into a future range of wearables, would be a benefit — Apple would have the best solution for hyperlocal weather on the market.

And, I’ll add, in an incredibly convenient and context-appropriate way.

Apple also likes to control as much of its own core technologies as possible. They used to use Yahoo! For weather. Currently, The Weather Company.

As best as I understand it, and please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong, the data mostly comes from government organizations, but it’s the packaging and feature sets that get built on top of it that are key.

IBM bought the Weather Company and Weather Underground, and could go a long way towards locking up these kinds of services.

If Apple really can build out Dark Sky, big if, this could go a long way towards both protecting and improving a key data type for Apple’s customers.