Living Earth: Clock and Weather (for iPad)

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As its subtitle implies, the Living Earth: Clock and Weather ($3.99) iPad app works as both a time and a weather app. Its clock function is similar to the Clock app included with iOS. In its meteorological role, it provides somewhat cursory 10-day forecasts for up to six cities, and also shows, superimposed on a globe, the current (or near-future) temperature, cloud cover, wind speeds, and humidity for the entire planet. These global views are Living Earth's most compelling feature, and provide a nice complement to the time and weather data that the app otherwise provides. Living Earth runs on iPads or iPhones, as well as the Apple Watch. I tested it on an iPad Air 2 running iOS 10.2.

When you open Living Earth, your view zooms in on a spinning globe, with the day side depicting cloud cover and the night portion showing some clouds and the lights of cities. (In my testing, a check of the National Weather Service's latest cloud-cover map revealed the cloud cover shown on the globe to indeed be current.) You can stop the rotation simply by tapping the screen. At the upper right corner of the screen is a capsule look at the weather, with an icon showing the current conditions (clear, partly cloudy, cloudy, rainy, or snowy), then the current temperature, and then the day's high and low. Tapping on the temperature—which is displayed in Fahrenheit, but can be switched to Celsius in the Settings menu—calls up a 10-day forecast table from the excellent Weather Underground, showing high and low temperatures, conditions, and chance of precipitation for each day.

The upper right corner of the screen shows the time in your current location or whatever city you set it for. It uses a 12-hour scheme with AM and PM, showing hours and minutes, and below the time is the day of the week and the date (month and day). There is no option in the settings to change to a 24-hour clock, like Cosmic-Watch uses to display local time, or to use the European convention with the day preceding the month. You can enlarge the date and time by tapping on it; tapping again returns it to its original size.

Tapping on your location, in the screen's lower left corner, calls up a list of six cities with their current weather. Your location is on top. By default, the other five are Cupertino, New York City, London, Shanghai, and Sydney, but you can remove and add cities from the Settings list, accessible through the familiar gear icon. This is one of six icons in the screen's lower left corner, which are normally hidden but become visible when you tap the screen. The first icon shows crosshairs, and it rotates the globe to your current location when you tap it. Touching the Settings icon reveals a list of items you can change, including such things as temperature scale, wind speed (from MPH to km/h, m/s, or knots), notifications for tropical cyclones, and display of clouds at night. From the Settings list you can also open a Help section, which gives you a basic overview of the app and its functions.

In testing, I found the third icon, which depicts the Earth, the most intriguing. Tapping it brings up a carousel-style strip of nine globe icons displayed across the bottom of the screen. Four depict current conditions (cloud cover, wind speed, temperature, and humidity), while the other five show forecast conditions for the next 24 hours: mean, maximum, and minimum temperature, plus wind and humidity. Tapping on any of these mini-globe icons superimposes its data on the main globe, along with a legend for the color-coding. For instance, with winds, blue areas have low winds, while red denotes high winds. (While most of the globe has low to moderate wind speeds as I write this, red areas depict storm systems near the Philippines, the Aleutian Islands, and Iceland.) Taken together, these maps present a snapshot of a variety of weather conditions throughout the world.

The globe, displayed against a starry background, takes up the majority of the screen. By pinching the globe, you can shrink it, and more of the stars will be visible. It is said to accurately depict the night sky, and, indeed, I was able to make out constellations such as Orion, Aquila, and Sagittarius.

The fourth icon at the screen's lower left shows the traditional spiral symbol for a hurricane. Tapping it once lists any active storms, and touching a listed storm takes you to it. The fifth (upload) icon lets you save a screenshot, send a link to it by text message or email, or send to Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr.

The final icon shows an alarm clock, and lets you set an alarm within the app. It works well enough, but has no advantage over the app in your iPad's own Clock app, which also displays clocks for different locations around the world. There's no compelling reason to use the app as a timepiece. A dedicated weather app such as Accuweather or the Weather Underground's own app offers much more detailed forecasts.

The global views in Living Earth are beautiful and mesmerizing, but they're more aesthetic and educational than of practical use for the vast majority of users. That said, the time and weather info along with the global view are an appealing combination to take in at a glance on the app's home screen.

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