Monday, July 19, 2010


Everyone knows the Wikipedia offers a wealth of content but sometimes it takes an app to show you just how valuable it can be.  Wikihood is one of those apps.  I recently downloaded the free version and I'm hooked.

Wikihood determines your current location and then retrieves information about it from the Wikipedia.  Facts and figures as well as local landmarks are all included.  Each one is listed separately along with the distances from where you're located.

I already learned a few things about my own hometown.  These are items I never would have thought to look for in the Wikipedia.  Yes, like so many other things online, discoverability in the Wikipedia is rough these days!  And since I travel a lot, you can bet I'll fire this app up to see what's around me on the road.

There's also a paid version of the app, called Wikihood Plus which costs $6.99.  The free version restricts categories to persons and culture/buildings while the paid version has no such restrictions.  The Plus version also lets you search the Wikipedia from within the app.  I'm pretty happy with the free version for now but I might upgrade down the road.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Popular Mechanics Interactive Edition

The key attributes that will really excite me about a magazine app are whether it encourages exploration and discovery.  Those two characteristics are at the heart of what should distinguish the app from a print magazine.  The app should offer rich content depth that the print product is physically incapable of.  The Popular Mechanics app has some areas that show promise on both the exploration and discovery front, but there's still a lot they could improve upon.

Popular Mechanics is the perfect magazine candidate to offer this sort of content depth, particularly since they cover such a wide range of interesting and emerging technology and science topics.  One of the first novelties you'll notice is a short article on the Red Bull Air Race.  The red bull flight animation is particularly cool. It's a good use of rich content that doesn't feel gratuitous like what you find in some other apps. The earthquake data viz app, otoh, was more disappointing.

Bummer that it doesn't remember where you left off. Each time you exit and restart the app it defaults back to the cover, not the page you last read.

Choppy page-turning is a bit annoying too but I'm hoping that's a v1.0 problem they'll fix soon.

Like the integrated news reader which lets you catch up on pop mechs feed without leaving the app. I wish they'd cache the content though, just like usatoday, nytimes and most new apps -- even when there's nothing new from your last session the screen shows nothing while it fetches all the same articles all over again.

I applaud pop mech on the price too. It seems minor but at $1.99 (confirm) it felt more reasonable than the $4.99 Wired app, which didn't impress me at all. I could see spending $2 for each pop mech issue.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Zinio Magazine Reader App

Zinio was one of the first apps I downloaded when I got my iPad.  I was anxious to see what they do with magazine content and whether the subscription prices were reasonable.  I was disappointed at first as the selection was limited and the prices were nothing to celebrate.  And for the most part, the content is rendered exactly as you see it in the print product.  That's not horrible, but I was hoping for more added value.  Other than a few links here and there it was pretty sparse.

I decided to check it out again over the weekend and still felt largely the same way.  But then I noticed the pricing model they have for PC Magazine.  You can either buy one issue for $5.99 or a 12-issue subscription for $5.  I'm curious to know whether anyone has really opted for the $5.99 single-issue deal...

I was a long-time PC Mag reader and I decided $5 was more than reasonable for a 12-issue subscription.  So far, I'm not at all disappointed.  Of course, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement to run out and buy one yourself now, is it?  It's worth five bucks though.

I'm glad PC Magazine and Zinio decided to go with this aggressive low pricing.  It's precisely the model that's needed for these quick-and-dirty conversions from print to e-format.  If you're going to add a lot more value than the print version I'll consider paying more.  But since you're just repurposing the same content you're selling elsewhere, with no added value, please don't act like Wired and think I'll pay the cover price for every issue (especially when I can get a 12 print issue subscription for $5)!

One final observation about my first PC Mag Zinio issue: I found it remarkable that it only included one ad (for Intel).  Where are all the others?  Is there really only one company that advertises in PC Mag nowadays?  Yikes.

I'll check back on Zinio's catalog from time to time.  If they offer more $5 annual subscriptions, just like the ones I often get in the snail mail, I'll probably sign up for them.  It's a better way than getting the print version and it will hold me over till the magazine industry figures out a new model, one that's more interesting than just the print version in e-format.