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5/17/2012
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Weather Channel, Flipboard Updates Gain Social Power

Significant updates to The Weather Channel iPhone app and Flipboard app for iPhones and iPads tap into the social reach of Facebook and Twitter.

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In the buildup to Facebook's big IPO, two Apple iOS applications have seen fit to provide updates that improve upon their individual social networking cred. The Weather Channel for the iPhone and Flipboard for both the iPhone and iPad both bring with them new sharing features that tap into the power of Facebook and Twitter.

Social networking's tendrils are snaking their way beyond dedicated apps and into a wide range of what normally would be considered non-social apps. The idea is to encourage the dissemination of information--no matter what that information happens to be.

Flipboard

Version 1.9 of Flipboard brings with it several new features, the biggest of which is sound. Rather than limit itself to what you can see and read, Flipboard has partnered with a number of online audio content partners to add a whole new dimension to the application.

Using the app's navigation tools, it is easy to find and add the audio content to your Flipboard. Some of the big providers are National Public Radio and Public Radio International, both of which offer a number of their programs. In addition to these two, several dozen record companies have thrown their content into the app. It is easy to flip through the (admittedly limited) number of songs being offered by the labels and either give the songs there a spin or add the label to your feed. The sound quality of the songs I sampled was quite excellent.

[ Does the next-gen iPhone's display size really matter? See Bigger iPhone Display: Why Apple Has No Choice. ]

The app also works with SoundCloud, which is sort of like YouTube, but for music and/or sounds. For example, I use SoundCloud to share clips of songs I've written for the guitar. For Flipboard users, the SoundCloud integration makes it simpler to access the sounds from the artists you may subscribe to.

All this new content can be shared, of course, via other social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, email, and so on.

Last, Flipboard v1.9 adds access for visually impaired users. It uses Apple's VoiceOver features, which are automatically turned on, and navigational gestures are read aloud, as are the articles once accessed.

Flipboard is a free download from the iTunes App Store.

The Weather Channel

The new version of The Weather Channel app for the iPhone offers a more lush and interactive user interface. It's less utilitarian in appearance and more "weather-y" thanks to some slick new animations.

For example, the main screen shows the weather for the current location. It also includes access to the user's bookmarked locations, which can be viewed by swiping left or right. As the user swipes from location to location, the animation changes in correspondence with the weather report for that location (i.e., if it's rainy in London, the animation shows clouds and rain. It it's sunny in Paris, the animation clears the clouds and shows the dazzling sun).

As far as the data that's provided, the base information includes the current temperature, sun level, and/or cloud cover, as well as expected high and low temps. Tap a button and the app produces information regarding the wind, humidity, UV index, dew point, visibility, sunrise/sunset, and barometric pressure.

The app has five little buttons running along the bottom of the screen that provide access to weather maps, videos, social networking, and seasonal data, such as pollen counts, storms, and tides. The social networking tool is an interesting one. It integrates with both Twitter and Facebook, which allow the user to share the weather report with their social networking buds. It also pulls in items such as Twitter updates from random people that are located within the vicinity of the user. Not sure how useful this latter feature is, but hey, it's "social."

My one complaint with the app is the advertising. The top 10% or 15% or so of the screen is always consumed by a banner ad. While I was testing the app, the ad was a bright red banner advertising Lexus cars. It distracted me from the nice blue hues of the app itself.

The Weather Channel is available for free (ad supported) or for $3.99 (no ads).

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