Wednesday, April 10, 2013

American Airlines launches its first app for American Way into the Apple Newsstand, a native tablet edition

If there is a business segment less respected by the American public than the U.S. airline industry than I'd like to hear of it. The term forward thinking and airlines are rarely seen together in the same sentence. Both most airlines have been quick to see the potential value of mobile devices –  launching smartphone apps that allow travelers to book seats, check on their flight status, and increasingly, to read the airline's in flight magazine on their tablets.

One of the last U.S. carriers to launch a tablet edition is American Airlines, but yesterday the airline's first tablet magazine app appeared inside the Apple Newsstand.

Launched as American Airlines Magazines, the app will probably be the home of whatever publications the airlines wish to have available for its flying customers. For right now one issue of American Way is inside – I have to think that the reason for this is simply that the publisher, AA Publishing, has been waiting for the app to make its way through the Apple app review process.

There are other tell tale signs that the app team in not quite done with this app launch: the screenshots seen in the App Store are of the print edition, not the digital edition actually seen in the app itself; and there is no in flight shopping publication, something generally seen on board airplanes.

The app and its content is free, of course, and that first issue (dated January 1, 2013) weighs in at 82 MB – just small enough, probably, to be able to download it before boarding. It's hard to tell if this first issue was an experiment or a final product – it seems short on content, and without many of the items one would find in the print edition. Also, there is no advertising.

The tablet edition shies away from multimedia elements, a good idea since the designers have to assume (at least for now) that the reader would not have WiFi access. Besides, it probably would annoy some travelers to have their seating companions playing videos from the in flight magazine without ear buds in.

But the tablet edition can be seen in landscape, which seems like an unnecessary way to bloat the publication file size. There are plenty of other features that could be added to this digital magazine such as puzzles, Sudoku, etc. But this is probably one of those tablet edition apps that I should return to in a few weeks to see if any new material has been added to it, and if the publisher has some interesting new ways to use the Newsstand app now that it has been launched.