Friday, April 8, 2011

End of the week app round-up of miscellaneous media apps: wine, the wine country and cool hunting

In a week's time I download a lot of mobile and tablet apps that I never get around to writing about. Mobile apps have a hard time making their cut, so many are ways of reading content on the run -- better versions of a mobile website, but generally without interesting new features (like the new Talking New Media for iPhone app, which I am sure you have downloaded by now, right?). But media apps designed for the iPad are often more varied.

So now that it is the end of the week, and I can't think of a better way to wrap things up than to clear off my desk (so to speak) by clearing off my iPad. Here goes:

The first media app is a replica edition from Florida Weekly, or more accurately, a collection of replica editions. The serves the four editions of these free weekly tabloids produced by Florida Media Group LLC.: Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, For Myers, Naples, and Palm Beach Gardens.

The free app opens to a dialogue box where the reader can choose their edition. The reader can move from edition to edition, if they choose. Beyond that, there is not much else here that differentiates this from print.

Produced and released by Our Hometown Inc., a website design and hosting company for small newspaper publishers, this is the first app to be launched into Apple's App Store. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the company spent much time inside the developer website working on this app.

"View full page Florida Weekly editions for free on your iPad!" reads the app description -- the entire app description. No word on what those editions might be, or why you would want to read them on your iPad. Additionally, only one screenshot was included with the app.

Hopefully, the approval and release of this app caught Our Hometown by surprise and they will add more in the description field and all a screenshot or two. This can happen: one day Apple tells you your app is in the review process, the next minute you are told the status of your app has changed, and suddenly there it is inside iTunes. Changes then made to the description take a while to appear in the App Store so maybe the developer is adding material right now.

Cool Hunting, from the website of the same name, is something altogether different. It has been featured by Apple inside the App Store, and has received pretty unanimous praise from users, as well.

If you are not familiar with the website (or the app) it is a design reference tool. "Our global team of editors and contributors sift through innovations in design, technology, art and culture to create our award-winning publication, consisting of daily updates and weekly mini-documentaries," the app description says.

The app was created by Bond Art and Science which has a pretty funky website which you will either find fascinating or annoying (I think I lean towards annoying).

There is a lot here to explore so, since this app is free, I'd recommend downloading it yourself and taking it for a test ride when you have some leisure time. But if not, this promotional video will reveal a lot:

Cool Hunting iPad App v2.0 Demo from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

I've said it once before, but it bears repeating, whoever is selling at Technavia should be recruited as soon as possible -- that guy can sell! Once again the company has managed to sell their flipbook services to another newspaper property, in this The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.

This free app, Santa Rosa Press Democrat E-Edition, is one of those flipbooks that are enhanced with links and navigation tools, but are still incredibly hard to read because a print edition just doesn't fit well on the iPad's screen. Maybe when Apple comes out with a 20 inch version things will improve.

I've written about quite a number of these flipbook versions of a daily newspaper and suffice it to say I really, really hate them. But the fact that The Press Democrat is a New York Times property is even more shocking to me. Is there anything positive for me to say? Yes, they created a really cool icon for the app.

Don't bother downloading the app if you don't live in Sonoma County. The app, upon opening, asks you to sign in. If you don't have any account you can create one but you soon bump into the fact that they won't let you have access to the content without a print subscription. That's right, no digital subscription option is available. (Are you still there? or did you fall off your chair?)

Why did they do this? Probably to get around Apple's subscription policies because while you can not buy a digital subscription through the app, only home delivery, you can go onto the website and buy an e-edition subscription for $10.99 per month.

Let's end with some wine, shall we? Or in this case, an app called Terre del Vino - Viaggiare-Bere-Mangiare-Vivere meglio, possibly the longest app name so far.

As someone who will probably be drinking an Italian wine tonight (I'm making seafood pasta), this one would right up my alley were it not for the fact that I can't read Italian and to date there is no built-in translation services so far for the iPad. This app is a big reminder to me how much I have grown dependent on the Google Chrome browser on my Mac. I still prefer Safari, but Google's built-in translations are essential for reading, ever so roughly, foreign language websites. We need this kind of feature built into the iOS.

In any case, this app is a free download, but future issues of Terre del Vino will cost readers 1.59 €.