Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fighting it out on iPhones and iPads: Republicans and Democrats create political apps for a divided nation

The same ugliness that is visible on the airwaves can be seen on mobile apps. iTunes is stuffed with apps from talk radio stations, politicians and individuals with an axe to grind, but until recently neither party launched official apps for either smartphones or the iPad.
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The iTunes store is packed with political ads, most of which have been developed by individuals with their own agendas. But many are just written by developers looking to make a few bucks. iRightWing sells for 99 cents and was written by the same developer that is selling iLeftWing for 99 cents. The same developer, Schatzisoft, that is selling Proud Democrat for 99 cents is selling Proud Republican for the same price.

Other developers clearly know where to make a buck. Tea Party Talk Radio asks "Are you tired of liberal talk radio dominating the airwaves?", then asks iPhone owners to cough up $1.99 to download the app. That same developer, Sortuva Company, though has a number of other radio apps including LBGT Radio.
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The quality of the apps are not the highest, however. ScrollMotion, for instance, has released an app named Liberty and Tyrrany (sic): A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin that sells for $24.99. None of the reviews in iTunes point out the obvious typo. But as one reviewer on Amazon says "This is the best source to understand why HUMANS can not succesfuly implement the "good idea" of communisum. And how Liberals are trying to in this country."

The Drudge Report must have a dozen iPhone apps in iTunes, though only one is called the "Official" app -- and that one is one of the few to also have something for the iPad. The Official Drudge Report app is available for both the iPhone and iPad and is frankly the app doesn't do much to improve on what is undoubtedly the web's ugliest designed site.
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Until recently neither the RNC nor DNC had released official apps. But this morning the Democrats struck first releasing two apps, The Democratic Party and Barack Obama|Organizing for America. Both apps are universal, and are free (though the apps have a prominent Donate button, of course). As you might expect for an official organization, the apps are a leap ahead design-wise, with the Obama app containing video clips.

It used to be assumed that Apple customers were, by and large, a more liberal group than PC owners. Mac users tended to live in blue states like California and New York, while Red states like Mississippi and Alabama had a far lower concentration of Mac users versus PC users. In fact, the 2004 election map almost exactly duplicated the Mac versus PC map.

But things have changed since Apple introduced the iPhone. By introducing a winning consumer product that has a larger market share, Apple users now more closely resemble the general population. (I'm sure the same could be said of iPod owners, as well). No surprise then that developers on both sides of the political divide are taking advantage of the large audiences available to them and are building apps for both sides of the aisle.

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