By Dan Moren
June 7, 2022 12:06 PM PT
WWDC 2022: WeatherKit brings hyperlocal forecasts to apps
In 2020, Apple acquired the popular hyperlocal weather forecasting app Dark Sky and while some elements of that app have made their way into the company’s own revamped Weather app over the last few years, there remained one last holdout: the Dark Sky API, which, it was announced concurrent with last year’s WWDC, would continue running until the end of 2022.
This year, we’ve met the successor to that technology: WeatherKit.
WeatherKit is backed by the new Apple Weather Service, which picks up where Dark Sky left off, offering hyperlocal forecasts that take advantage of machine learning to predict weather and provide a slew of information to apps and services.
This is a big endeavor, but its existence shouldn’t come as a surprise—and not just because of the timeline for sunsetting the Dark Sky API. Apple loves having key technologies under its control and if you’ve scrolled down in the company’s Weather app pre-iOS 16 (or requested weather information via Siri), you’ve surely seen (or heard) that the weather data on Apple’s platform has historically been provided by The Weather Channel.1 It’s not hard to imagine that that reliance on a third party (much less have to display their logo in one of Apple’s prominent apps) for this critical data may have rankled the folks in Cupertino.2 (Not to mention that Apple was certainly paying for the right to use that data, the cost of which may have grown significantly as more and more users were on the platform.)
But while the Apple Weather Service powers the new iOS 16/iPadOS/macOS Ventura, developers on those platforms can now use Apple’s weather data in their own apps too, via WeatherKit. Adding the information into an app via Swift looks pretty straightforward, using API calls based on location—the data’s also accessible via a REST API for other languages or use cases.
WeatherKit provides a ton of data, including minute forecasts (specifically for precipitation), hourly forecasts, daily forecasts (up to 10 days), weather alerts, and a veritable tsunami of historical weather data for those who want to crunch the information to extrapolate trends. That means a lot of opportunity for apps to use weather data without having to go to a third-party source, which generally charge not insubstantial fees for access to their APIs.
Another interesting note about the Apple Weather Service that didn’t get mentioned in the company’s session on WeatherKit, but did come up in the Platform State of the Union is that developers will get 500,000 free queries per month from the Apple Weather Service. Given that works out to, on average, 16,666 calls per day, one has to imagine that popular apps may quickly exceed that.
So, of course, the company is charging for extra queries, starting at $49.99/month for 1 million calls and going all the way up to 20 million for $999.99/month. Certainly, these queries have cost for Apple itself, so the company isn’t likely to provide unlimited queries for free. But this pricing also may discourage developers from using the data to simply build straight-up weather forecast apps that compete with Apple’s own, instead pushing them towards integrating more specific weather data into other apps (for example, an allergy diary app that easily lets you grab the current weather conditions when you log your symptoms).
And, of course, any use of WeatherKit’s data requires that your app prominently display the Weather logo and legal attribution of the data source. Which I suppose makes Apple the new Weather Channel…just for other apps on its platform.
Nothing, of course, prevents developers from using access to other APIs, but the built-in nature of WeatherKit certainly will make it tempting. Access to this kind of far-reaching data is a big deal for those building apps for Apple’s devices and potentially provides a significant competitive advantage with other platforms. Expect to see more apps with built-in weather features when Apple’s software updates ship in the fall.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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