CARROT: A weather app with a personality and political opinions
“You were just asking for this bad weather,” says my weather app. And it means it.
If you are tired of just refreshing your weather app to check the temperature outside, here’s an interesting alternative: AI-driven CARROT, which is designed to vibe with your personality of choice.
A far cry from your usual weather apps, CARROT not only uses artificial intelligence to bond with you but its gamification features also make it more than your average utility.
Released in 2018, CARROT Weather has over five lakh downloads on the Google Play Store with a rating of 3.2, which doesn’t sound quite promising. In fact, several users also point out that the Android version seems to be suffering from a lack of attention.
On the other hand, on the Apple App Store, it not only has a higher—4.7 out of 5—rating but was also recognised as App of the Year in 2021 and won the Apple Design Award at WWDC21, the company’s annual developer conference.
After using CARROT Weather on my iPhone for a good four months, I downloaded it on my Android smartphone a week ago for this review and the difference is quite stark—the iOS version does offer a better user experience.
Right off the bat, it is very clear that the app behaves very differently on the two operating systems. For one, the Android app has none of the gamification features that make it so unique. More importantly, it looks more like a web app—rudimentary and clunky.
Definitely not boring
Setting up the app is easy. It doesn’t ask you to log in or offer any details. However, like any good weather app, it does request access to your location.
But then comes the add-on. In the General subsection of the Settings menu, you get to choose the type of personality you want the app to adopt. The choices range from Professional, Friendly, Snarky, Homicidal, and Overkill (which also has its own profanity filter).
Of course, my default is Overkill and while I have explored Homicidal and Snarky at times, I have grown quite fond of the edgelord AI-driven app that hurls political insults at me every time I launch it.
For example, “Do you see that cloud up in the sky? It foretells the precise manner of your death. (I have added several screenshots just to show the range of CARROT’s insult-hurling abilities.)
CARROT’s commentary is also impacted by a political leaning of your choice but if you want your app to be free of all real-world shenanigans, choose ‘apolitical’.
To be honest, half the fun lies in how effectively you can tailor the settings to your preference. You can also choose the sound effects and voice of your preference.
Other customisation options include display options—themes, fonts, and font size.
Loosen your purse for the full ride
However, there are several features and add-ons that are available only for Premium and Premium Ultra customers like syncing your data with your iCloud account, adding Siri shortcuts, getting notifications, customising widgets, and more.
Of course, when most smartphones come equipped with a full-fledged weather app that offers notifications, widgets, customisations, multiple locations, etc., the question arises: why do you have to pay for a weather app?
CARROT does justify it…somewhat. See, when something is free, especially online, 9/10 times, you are the product. More specifically, your data is the product. And when it comes to CARROT Weather, the app has a simple response: its developers don’t sell your data.
While it is true that the Premium and Premium Ultra subscriptions are necessary to experience CARROT’s full potential, it is an expensive proposition. For Apple devices, one has to pay Rs 1,699 per year for the base Premium plan, or Rs 2,349 per year for the Premium Ultra plan. There’s also a family plan for Rs 4,999 per year.
In contrast, on Android devices, you get just one quite reasonable subscription option—for Rs 260 per year—that removes ads, offers widgets, and allows you to access historical weather data stretching back 70 years.
Romancing your AI
CARROT is a taskmaster, sending her users on missions offering only obscure clues and the map of the entire world. For example, which corporate headquarters resembles a spaceship? The answer is Apple Park but it isn’t enough to type it out. You will have to scroll through the map on the screen to pinpoint its exact location.
There’s also a list of achievements, mostly based on the weather you experience. So, if you are a frequent traveller, you will fly through these milestones easily.
In its latest update, the app launched a ‘dating sim’ to help “improve your relationship with the homicidal AI” according to Brian Mueller, developer of CARROT. These bonding features are fun—you can charge your CARROT, praise it out loud, and help ‘debug’ the app by shaking your phone.
The activities increase the ‘hearts’ you have and for every heart that you win, the app gives you not-so-useful gifts. For example, I got a Dud Bomb after praising it at least five times, charging it thrice, and shaking my phone like a lunatic for at least three minutes.
Is it worth it?
The simple answer would be no. While I love interacting with CARROT, often refreshing the screen for a new insult, I haven’t missed the widget or notification features, mostly because I have the native iOS weather app on my phone which offers me all these features at no cost.
Sure, Apple is harnessing my data but hey, at this point, who isn’t?
Paying at least Rs 1,699 for a weather app did not make sense to me at least. It’s a fun app and if they ever move the romance and gamification bit behind the paywall, I might consider it, but for now, the free version is enough.
On Android, it’s a whole different problem altogether. The UI looks amateurish, there are no features, pull-to-refresh doesn’t work, and the app just keeps crashing.
I used the seven-day trial on my iPhone and while the unlocked potential seemed like a luxury, it wasn’t tempting enough to actually buy the subscription once the trial period ended.
The app also has its flaws. For example, the voices sound very woody, especially as AI-driven voice assistants aren’t new and Alexa, Google, and Siri sound quite life-like now. On CARROT, however, each syllable is carefully enunciated enhancing the artificial feel.
In a nutshell, iOS users, download for the snark and stay for the games. Android users, wait for an update (or two), I guess.
Meanwhile, I have a new mission, says CARROT, "Find the amphitheatre that once featured my favourite bloodsport."
To be honest, we are not good enough friends for me to even know what her favourite blood sport is—at least just yet.
Edited by Kanishk Singh