There are times when Sir Richard Branson's newly launched Project magazine for iPad feels a lot like what it is, a billionaire playing with his money. From the animated cover, which has actor Jeff Bridges moving slightly with a distorted transmission effect, to article splash pages where the reader has to rub away dirt or a pencil overlay to reveal a full image, the devices often feel trite, gratuitous and well-funded.
The iOS 4.2 updates to the iPad and iPhone dropped yesterday as nice little appetizers to savor over Thanksgiving. The quasi-multitasking the update provides for the iPad is welcome if not revelatory. I have been reading early reviews claiming that the update will change the way you use the iPad, but I am not yet seeing that. Folder organization, background media playing and file downloads are the most important additions for my usage patterns. Once more apps support the multitasking feature, we should benefit from background downloads, which make a difference in some of these media apps like magazines.
I am trying to get my hands around the new Android-powered Sprint Galaxy Tab -- literally. It is a slippery thing. You would think that a smaller tablet with a 7-inch screen actually would be easier to handle than its 11-inch rival from Apple. But one-handed use actually stretches my admittedly dainty hands. Thumb typing in portrait mode is nominally better here than on the iPad, but landscape mode is too small for full-hand typing and too large for thumb typing.
Just another friendly reminder to retailers: Your customers are way, way ahead of you when it comes to using mobile as a resource. Even my mobile-averse fiancée is ahead of most of you. And that is saying something. Whenever I hand her a phone in the car to look for directions or a local resource she still looks as if I 'd just handed her a rabid ferret. But she knows very well that I can get just about any product information we need on a smartphone. "Google it," she commands from the steam-cleaner aisle at Best Buy.
"The Sexy Porn Star Name Generator? What the hell is this doing on the phone?" Oops. Perhaps I should have erased all of those adult-content apps I downloaded to the Droid the other day before passing it off to my fiancée. I was hoping to have her test some new person-to-person apps with me, but her first text message from the field got us side-tracked. SMS is a tough medium for rationalizing. Consider this post evidence in my defense. See, honey, I really was researching porn apps for a column.
The other day I was talking with a longtime contact from the b2b publishing industry about how little attention and respect trade publishing gets from the consumer side of the business. And I suspect it is true that most media industry types see the b2b "side" as a backwater of painfully narrow trade journals about pipe fittings and such. In truth, there are many areas in which b2b media is far ahead of the consumer side. The marketing services businesses that many media companies now are embracing, where they take more integrated and consultative roles with clients, has been advancing …
It is the preciousness of personal relationships that also makes me reticent to engage in the "checking-in" behavior that local mobile models like Foursquare and now Facebook Places want me to adopt. I admit that likely I am behind the curve on this one, but I don't think I am alone. "Checking In" with a phone app is asking people to adopt a new behavior -- and to do so mainly for the benefit of a merchant, not for oneself. More to the point, it is asking us to transfer onto impersonal commercial entities what for many of us is …
"Why are we watching this?" I ask my daughter as I join her in the living room for an afternoon of... QVC? I admit, she is a creature of consumer America. Even at this ripe age she has burned through seven or eight retail stages. But she couldn't possibly have vaulted to QVC already. "It's fun," she says, although I haven't a clue what she means by that. Ironic fun? Virtual shopping fun? I try to play along by firing up QVC's recent iPad app.