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iPad App Review: Flipboard



by sjhoward

This is the 1,435th post. It was published at 12:00 on Friday, 15th April 2011.

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20110329-111000.jpg Of all the apps I have installed on my iPad, Flipboard is probably the one that has had the greatest impact on my digital life.

Prior to getting my iPad, I used to view my Facebook and Google Reader feeds via Socialite on my MacBook, and Twitter via the Twitter App for Mac of iPhone, depending on where I was.

Flipboard has now taken over from all the above.

It sucks in all of the above feeds, and produces a personalised ‘social magazine’ that just looks great on the iPad. Twitter links are sucked in, so that the linked webpage is transformed into a magazine article, while non-linking Tweets just appear. TwitPics appear as pictures in my magazine. It really is quite incredible, and very fast – probably quicker to refresh than the Twitter app on my iPhone.

But, importantly, it doesn’t just look good – it is brilliantly functional.

20110329-111113.jpgFlipboard allows me to cross post anything anywhere, so I can share that interesting Tweet on Facebook or post that interesting article from Google Reader to Twitter with just a tap. You can also elect to ‘ignore’ people, without having to ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow’ them, which comes in handy.

Flipboard is now the primary way I interact with all of the above feeds. It’s brilliant.

Brilliant, but not perfect. I’d like to see threading of conversations on Twitter. I’d like to see whether Facebook statuses had comments without having to tap on them. I’d like Flipboard to see which Twitter and Facebook updates I’ve read and hide them, like it does with Google Reader (unless they have new comments). I’d really like Flipboard to learn what I like, and push those things to the front of the magazine rather than absolutely sticking to the timeline.

But still, Flipboard is great – in fact, I think it’s my favourite iPad app to date. I’m confident it will retain its place in my Dock for some time to come!


This is the fifth and final in a series of posts reviewing iPad Apps. Yesterday’s review was of Who Wants to be a Millionaire HD. If you enjoyed the series, let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@sjhoward), and maybe I’ll do something similar again sometime.

But that’s it for now… Stay tuned for more posts on different topics coming soon(er or later).


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iPad App Review: WWTBA Millionaire HD



by sjhoward

This is the 1,434th post. It was published at 12:00 on Thursday, 14th April 2011.

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I’ve chosen to write about this App not because it’s good, but because it’s not.

That isn’t out of some kind of sadistic wish to be mean, but because I want to demonstrate how it’s hard to get an iPad App just right. But first, a little background.

When Millionaire first burst onto our screens in 1998, I was hooked. The very idea of giving away a million pounds seemed incredible to my teenage brain, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Soon, the magic faded. I still watched, but mainly with the sound down unless someone got to the £32,000 “safe haven”. And, gradually, my interest waned still further, not bolstered by any revamps, clocks, or anything else that was thrown at it.

But one thing continued to preoccupy my mind – I badly wanted to play the game myself. I used to “play” the game with the quiz books and the CD soundtrack, but I desperately wanted a PC version of the game. Somehow, despite taking some time for the format to cross the Atlantic, they got their PC version out more quickly, and I was insanely jealous.

When eventually Celador got round to cashing in on the format, the resulting PC game seemed incredible to me. And when Version 2 turned up, and Chris Tarrant asked me the questions personally (after the first five), I loved it.

I also loved various Playstation versions of the game, and several phone versions – including the two I have on my iPhone at the moment. I even joined Virgin Mobile at one point because they had an SMS version of the game.

So I’m a bit of a Millionaire format fan, even if I don’t particularly watch the TV show anymore.

Naturally, when I got my iPad, I got the “Millionaire HD” app, which, like it’s iPhone cousin, bizarrely titles itself “2011” below the icon. And what did I get for my money? Essentially, a blown up version of the iPhone title. There really is no discernible difference between the two.

Now, by pure logic alone, that should be a good thing. I really like the latest iPhone version, and find it one of the most addictive editions I’ve ever owned. But it’s not an iPad App.

A screen the size of the iPad’s does not lend itself to blown-up display of a screen the size of the iPhone’s. It doesn’t work. It feels like a jumbo toy. And the great aspect of the iPhone App, which I’d guess you could call it’s “passiveness” in a loose sense, doesn’t work on the iPad. On the iPad, I want an immersive experience, not a passive one.

Now that’s really difficult to pin down. The difference isn’t obvious or clear-cut. Is it CGI video that’s missing, or would that just be deeply irritating? Is it the relatively poor use of music doing that’s stopping this being immersive? Is it the “clock” rushing me towards an answer? Well, no, it’s not the clock, because you can turn that off and it doesn’t improve things.

All the important things are there. The questions seem of the right level, the lifelines offer just the right degree ofdoubt, and even the graphics are slick if oversized.

But there’s an unknowable “something” that turns the iPad edition, in my eyes at least, from a “hit” to a “miss”. I just can’t bring myself to recommend it.


This is the fourth in a series of posts reviewing iPad Apps. Yesterday’s review was of the Sky News App. Check back tomorrow for my review of Flipboard.


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iPad App Review: Sky News



by sjhoward

This is the 1,433rd post. It was published at 12:00 on Wednesday, 13th April 2011.

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I am a Sky News viewer. That’s my guilty confession. I don’t so much sit and watch it as have it on in the background when I’m at home. It’s essentially moving wallpaper for my living room, often ‘watched’ without sound.

I choose Sky News because it’s the least distracting of the news channels. That used to be true of BBC News 24, but there’s something about the presentational style now that distracts me. I don’t know what it is, or whether that’s a good thing for attracting viewers who actually want to watch, but it’s turned me off.

I also like the fact that they respond and change scripts when I send them moany emails pointing out the factual errors in their medical reportage, whereas the BBC generally ignore me.

20110329-083626.jpg So, as a Sky News viewer, the iPad App has been marketed very heavily at me. Frankly, I’m fed up of seeing the adverts.

The app is fairly new, and has received a lot of praise from all over the place: Tech Radar basically loved it, Zath thought it was one of the iPad’s best apps, and Crowded Brain gave it 9/10.

The app is often praised for its innovative presentational style and ‘immersive’ experience. It has two main gateways, both of which are video focussed. There is a traditional ‘order of importance’ approach, where videos and headlines from stories are dynamically (read: messily) arranged with size and position indicating importance. Hit a video and it starts to play, while contextual information flies in from the sides. The contextual information is generally more video content on the same story, textual content, or interactive graphics.

Alternatively, the ‘timeline’ view gives me a virtually minute-by-minute index of what has been presented on Sky News over the last 24 hours, and allows me to jump to any bit of it, with the contextual fly-ins as above.

20110329-083751.jpg Conclusion: I hate it.

I really do very strongly dislike this app. I just don’t think I’m a person who enjoys consuming news through video. I might have Sky News on all the time, but I guess I don’t really watch it. Save for some recent very big stories, few newsworthy items lend themselves to videos – moving pictures rarely add all that much to understanding. I’d far rather scan-read a written article than spend three times the time being spoon-fed a simplified version of the issue via video.

I didn’t realise how strongly I felt about this until this app came along. I rarely click the videos in online news articles, but they don’t bother me – I just ignore them. But when you go down this Sky News route of removing almost everything but the video it becomes painfully clear that this isn’t the way I like to consume my news.

I’ll concede that the app is visually striking – though I wouldn’t necessarily call it attractive. I’ll concede that it’s innovative – I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. But I’ll conclude that it’s not for me – when it moves to a subscription model, I won’t be paying.


This is the third in a series of posts reviewing iPad Apps. Yesterday’s review was of the iWork Apps. Check back tomorrow for my review of Who Wants to be a Millionaire HD. Yes, really.


This post was filed under: iPad App Reviews, Media, Reviews, Technology, , ,

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