Monday, November 1, 2010

Time Inc. and Condé Nast release new iPad apps for very different products; one works, one is buggy and doesn't

Two major media companies released iPad apps for their properties this morning: Time Inc. released a fee photo app for Life, while Condé Nast released an iPad app for its Ars Technica web product.
LIFE for iPad is essentially an app that takes advantage of the titles huge photo library. The free app can be used in both landscape and portrait -- a good thing since photographs come in both orientations.

One wonders if readers will return often to this app as it lacks the urgency of a news app, or the frequency of a regularly issued magazine. But the app is well done and certainly takes advantage of the iPad's display.
This is a good example of a tablet app that simply would not be as wonderful on a smaller, seven inch display of some of the newer tablets being released. As I've said in the past, media products will work better on the iPad's 9.7 inch display than on smaller displays (though I can certainly see some advantages to the smaller form -- gaming, for instance).

The mystery here, though, is the business model: no ads, free app. Am I missing something?

Condé Nast Digital has also released a new iPad app this morning, this one for Ars Technica. But this app has some serious programming issues and probably should have been better tested before being released.

First, the app has scrolling issues -- it is as sticky as a New York sidewalk. Second, there is no landscape mode, meaning that the web property is suddenly stuck in portrait, a bid awkward.

It's hard to see why this app would be a superior experience to the website, which, of course, can easily be navigated on the iPad using the built-in Safari browser. I guess the best feature would be that you can access the content then go offline for reading while travelling.

In fact, Clint Ecker, writing on the Ars Technica website introducing their iPad app says "You can already read Ars on your iPad via Safari, so why bake an iPad version? First, we think tablets are very cool and afford some innovative design choices."

The rest of the post will certainly be of interest to techies as it goes into the programming of the app itself. A later update admits to some scrolling issues and also promises the add landscape mode to the next version. More importantly, they try, as best as they can, to give a sound reason for the app itself:
Why an App for a tablet? A: A browser is still a point-and-click interface that’s run on a PC of some sort, most of the time. We believe that the tablet reading experience is different, and wanted to experiment. Most of the Ars staff that have tablets are converts to tablet-based reading.