Android is losing the Dark Sky weather app, now what?

Dark Sky

We support other independent app makers, that’s what

When Amazon bought Eero just over a year ago, I wrote that the whole thing felt disappointing. It was a small, independent company that made a tech product people loved in part because it was made by a small, independent company. But it got purchased by a big tech company and so we had to worry what the big tech company would do with the small, independent company. We had to worry about what would happen to the product we loved, and also worry that the fate of all good, small companies is to get absorbed by a giant one.

Anyway, Apple acquired the popular weather app Dark Sky yesterday.

For iPhone users, the Dark Sky app will continue to exist and continue to cost $3.99. It will continue to provide hyper-local weather forecasts that are capable of telling you that it’s going to rain in your area in the next 15 minutes. It will still be very well designed and you will still be able to trust that your location data will be held in safe hands.

For Android users: sorry for your luck, the app is shutting down on July 1, 2020. Oh, and those other apps that you might switch to? A bunch of them depend on Dark Sky’s weather API (as do many iPhone apps), which the company charges developers for access to, and they’re all going to have to switch providers.

That’s because Apple is shutting down Dark Sky’s API at the end of 2021. That’s nearly two years from now, so it’s not as dire as the Dark Sky app itself shutting down, but it’s still disappointing.

Actually, I said it feels “petty,” on Twitter, which is both fair (it’s how Android users feel!) and wildly unfair (Apple doesn’t run a charity and has no obligation to help Android users out).

Dark Sky was a favorite amongst Android users because it was so well designed. That feels rarer on Android even if it isn’t — it seems like you have to wade through more junk on the Google Play Store before you find the good stuff. Dark Sky was easy to like and easy to recommend — and it was downloaded well over a million times because of it.

Dark Sky is also rare among weather apps in that you didn’t have to constantly worry if your data was being bought and sold. That’s a significant problem on both iPhone and Android, to be super clear. But on Android in particular it stings because another formerly beloved app — Weather Timeline — was acquired by a company with a history of selling location data a little over a year ago.

We’ll have some recommendations for Android apps tomorrow — although many of the best ones utilize Dark Sky’s APIs. Those developers are already tweeting about looking for alternative weather data sources. I currently use Carrot on both Android and iOS — partly because it has a very good Apple Watch complication and partly because I’m a sucker for the weird jokes it makes.

I’ve written before in this newsletter about Sherlocking, when Apple duplicates a third-party app with its own app and knocks the legs out of the market. This is something different and although it’s annoying that a great Android app is going away, I don’t really think it’s knocking the legs out of anything. Eero was a sign that making it as an indie hardware developer is very hard. But I expect that new weather apps are going to continue to be made.

And again, I don’t begrudge Apple for buying a very good company nor its decision to shut down the Android app or the API. I’d like to remind the people in my Twitter replies especially that you can be sad about your Android app without being angry at Apple. There’s a “don’t hate the iPlayer” joke in here somewhere but we’re all better than that (okay I’m not, I just made the joke).

There are columns to be written speculating what Apple wants to do with Dark Sky, its well-crafted app, and its very well-crafted system of collecting and making sense of weather data. Will it be built into Apple’s own weather apps? Will it become yet another monthly subscription service alongside so many others that Apple offers?

The time will come to wonder about all of that, in the way we always wonder what these giant companies are up to and what products they’re working on. For now, though, I’m looking forward to what a lot of smaller companies are going to do to fill the gap Dark Sky is leaving on Android.

I love paying for apps from independent developers. My three or four or twenty bucks means so much more to them than my annual subscription fees mean to Apple, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. The next time you have the opportunity and the wherewithal to pay for an independent app, don’t think twice, do it.