App Teardown: The Weather Channel is #1 for a Reason!

Ariel Michaeli Ariel Michaeli
Feb. 23 #app-store

Welcome to App Teardowns, a series where we analyze the strategies apps and games use to gain visibility and downloads on the App Store and Google Play, their performance, and competition.

App Teardown: The Weather Channel is #1 for a Reason!

Every iPhone comes with an app to check the weather that's built right in and does a pretty good job at showing you the forecast. Yet, the Weather category is full of apps that replace it, and they're getting millions of downloads every year.

In 2020, the top 5 weather apps in the U.S. App Store were downloaded more than 11 million times, based on our app intelligence. And that's only the top 5. According to Explorer, there are more than 2,000 iOS apps for weather.

In this teardown, we're going to drill into the leader of the pack, The Weather Channel. Which, coincidentally, also provides the data Apple uses in its native app.

Overall, The Weather Channel earns an A+ πŸ‘

Good: You can see how much attention was given to everything, from the app's name and subtitle to the keyword list and screenshots. A well-deserved #1.

Not so good: No App Preview video, but I'm just nitpicking here because everything else is great.

The Weather Channel by the Numbers

Here's how The Weather Channel is performing in the U.S. App Store, based on our App Intelligence:

  • πŸ“ˆ 560.4K estimated downloads in the last 30 days.
  • πŸ’° $617.4K estimated revenue in the last 30 days.
  • #️⃣ 1 in the Weather category.
  • ⭐️ 97% of new ratings were positive in the last 30 days.
  • πŸ‘‹ Audience slightly older and leans male
  • πŸ… Competitors include AccuWeather, WeatherBug, NOAA Weather Radar, and many others

Download & Revenue Analysis

Of all the weather apps out there, The Weather Channel is likely the one you know by name, while the rest are just search results. Over the years, The Weather Channel has consistently topped its category to the tune of 45 million downloads across the App Store and Google Play, based on our estimates.

COVID lockdowns in 2020 made knowing what the weather is outside unnecessary for many, and you can clearly see that in the dip in downloads overall, but they recover during the year.

Revenue tells a very different story.

In the U.S., The Weather Channel's largest market, 2020 was a great year for revenue.

The app's revenue has been growing steadily since 2019, pulling in $1.2M in net revenue in the U.S. That ballooned to more than $5M in 2020, and so far into 2021, The Weather Channel already pulled more than $1.1M in net revenue, according to our estimates.

The Weather Channel vs. the Competition

We've established The Weather Channel is the game to beat when it comes to weather, but who's trying to beat it? Here are the top 5 results for the keyword search "weather app," which also happens to be the top-ranked apps in the weather category:

Competitor intelligence for iOS and Android Apps by Appfigures

While The Weather Channel leads in downloads, it can't sit on its laurels just yet. Its competitors, namely #2, NOAA Weather Radar, is a power-house when it comes to in-app monetization, netting twice as much in the last 30 days with about half the downloads.

This isn't exactly ASO-related, but this teardown is about the bottom line, where that is important.


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Where is The Weather Channel Ranking?

Being #1 in a very competitive industry lead by none other than Apple isn't easy, so let's start the keyword analysis portion of this teardown by looking at keywords where the weather channel is currently ranking well, using data from the Keyword Discover report:

The Weather Channel is ranked on the App Store by Appfigures

The Weather Channel ranks in a lot of keywords! I set the filters to include any keywords where the app is in the top 10 results, and the keyword has a popularity of 20 or higher, meaning people are searching it. The results, 74 keywords. Impressive!

I suspect this kind of variety is a result of continuous experiments with metadata, driven mainly by data.

Keyword Analysis

Let's unpack that, starting with the app's name and subtitle. Those two send the strongest signal to Apple's algorithm.

  • Name: Weather - The Weather Channeβ€ͺl‬
  • Subtitle: Storm Radar, maps & widget

Strictly based on these, here are the popular keywords the algorithm sees:

The duplication that isn't - You probably noticed the name repeats the word "Weather" twice and thought it was a mistake or just poor optimization, but really, it isn't. I thought it was a mistake too in the beginning, but it's actually a strategy and a clever one!

The weather category is very competitive, and in addition to third parties, apps are also fighting Apple's own, which ranks just like the rest. To squeeze as much as they can, the folks at The Weather Channel know that they need the most important keyword to be the first. But they also have it as part of their brand, so they chose to "sacrifice" the characters needed to have both, knowing the second will be ignored so they can have the first word be "Weather" and not have to mess with their brand.

Clever!

The rest of the keywords from the subtitle combine well with the main keyword and are the most popular in this niche, based on my research.

I don't get to say this too often, but this is a great example of a set of keywords that's backed by real data.

The Weather Channel ASO Keyword Performance by Appfigures

And the results are pretty much in-line with the list above. TWC's focus on weather is telling Apple that's what it's all about and that there no other result it should show first. Not even Apple's own app.

Takeaways:

  • It's okay to break away from the common wisdom if you know what you're doing (or are experimenting, so you can know what you're doing later).
  • The order of keywords in your name is important. The first is the most important, the last is least.
  • When choosing and prioritizing keywords, make sure you look at hard data from the store instead of trusting your gut.

The Keyword List

Now, let's reverse-engineer the keyword list. The list isn't public, but we can attempt to uncover it by looking at all other keywords the app is ranked in. We believe it looks something like the following:

national,forecast,alert,noaa,doppler,snow,rain,wind,dark,sky,bug,tracker,temperature,meteorology

It looks like TWC is experimenting and changing things often, so this keyword list may not be exactly what's there now but should be close, and having looked at it for quite a while, it's pretty good and fits with the name and subtitle.

I don't love seeing competitors here, and while I wanted the algorithm to make those associations all on its own, I'm pretty certain TWC helps it by mentioning them in the list.

That aside, these keywords combine very well with those packed into the name and subtitle, and the results are fairly popular. This list + name and subtitle resulted in the first table in the teardown.

There's a lot to be learned from these keywords for both the novice and the expert, but the most important takeaway here, in my opinion, is the importance of experimenting and letting the data guide your decisions of which keywords to use and which to skip.

You may not be at The Weather Channel's scale, but researching keywords every few months and updating your app's name, subtitle, and keyword list shouldn't take longer than watching a TV show. I didn't even say binging.


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Screenshot and Video Analysis

10 screenshots. That's right, The Weather Channel is using all ten screenshots, and that's only the first win!

The Weather Channel for iOS Screenshot Analysis by Appfigures

  • Captions that are short and to the point.
  • Contrast makes it easy to see what's going on.
  • The hottest feature is up first—widgets.
  • The UI is either super clean (aka simple) or nice and colorful (eye candy).
  • Not afraid to show off, and being the data source for Apple's app, they can, and they do it twice.

The only two nitpicks I have for this otherwise powerful screenshots set is that the turquoise isn't all that exciting and action generating and that the fonts aren't the friendliest. Chunkier and shorter ones would make these feel more welcoming.

You'll notice I still gave The Weather Channel an A+, so clearly, these are minor.

If you glossed over this whole section without paying attention to detail, take these three with you: contrast, actionable captions, 10 screenshots.

Permissions and Privacy

When it comes to permissions and tracking, The Weather Channel seems to want pretty much everything your device will tell it about you, from your current location (even when the app's not running) to your calendars, photo library, and search history.

Here's a full list of permissions the app requests:

  • Coarse Location
  • Location (always)
  • Location (when in use)
  • Bluetooth
  • Calendars
  • Photo Library
  • Push Notifications
  • Motion

And here are all the privacy labels the developers chose to display on the App Store:

  • Purchase History
  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location
  • Search History
  • Device ID
  • Product Interaction
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data

That's a lot of information, but...

While it may look like a lot, it kind of makes sense that an app used to show data specific to a location needs access to your location, and that a dev team that's focused on improving the app would need access to crash data, perfromance data, and product interaction. So overall, this isn't bad.

The Tech Stack

Let's take a look under the hood to see what's powering The Weather Channel using our SDK Intelligence:

  • βš™οΈ Native app, built with Swift
  • πŸ’΅ 5 ad networks
  • πŸ“ˆ 3 usage trackers
  • πŸ”— 1 attribution provider

In addition to the ad networks, The Weather Channel chose, we can quickly see it's using pretty sophisticated tools to run the app, including comScore for usage tracking, Apptentive for communication, and Braze for engagement. These tools aren't cheap, indicating The Weather Channel is investing in the app.

The app is also using Lottie, a crowd favorite for animations. Thanks for keeping it playful!

The Verdict: What a Beauty!

I have gone through more than 25+ teardowns in this series, so when I say impressing me isn't easy, I really mean it. The Weather Channel is not just doing everything right but also pushing what's right forward.

It's great to see a service that had to cope with a massive shift from web → app and managed to do it so well. It didn't come easily, and you can see from the keyword, screenshots, and tech analysis that it isn't set on auto-pilot either. But all of that effort is well worth it based on the downloads.

The Tools I Use

I did this entire analysis with our App Store Optimization and Competitor Intelligence tools, the same ones hundreds of thousands of app makers rely on to monitor and optimize their apps. Get ahead + outsmart your competitors with Appfigures. Get started →

Download and revenue figures used in this teardown are based on estimates extracted from our Competitor Intelligence tools.


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