Version Reviewed: 1.0
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Build Quality Rating:
If the 2008 Presidential election was anything to go by, it seems that social trends play a pivotal role in modern politics. Barack Obama has over three million Twitter followers, 54,000 photos on flickr and his team has reworked the entire White House website. In contrast, Republican-frontrunner John McCain has under two million followers, 130 photos, and his website is certainly nothing to boast about.
So it was no surprise that The White House have placed themselves at the heart of the nation by releasing their official application for iPhone and iPod Touch. Are new means of communication the way to advance? From the ever-growing list of Congressman on Twitter as well as the new US Army application, it seems so. So let's take a look at what the official application of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has to offer.
Keep in touch, up-to-date
Much like the official website, classic Obama-minimalism suits the iPhone well. Navigation is easy and there's no excess or frills. A grand banner across the top of the application reminds you that this is the real deal - yet it doesn't detract from the content (arguably it enhances it). There are five sections to choose from, each offering their own different piece of political prowess: Blog, Video, Photos, Newsroom (external sources) and Live. It seems a little odd to have two different sections on video, and I'm left wondering whether this was for ease-of-use or trying to fill that final fifth space.
… but not for more than two weeks
A major shortfall of the WH application is its lack of content. You can have the latest news, but not after about a fortnight. Articles disappear into an inaccessible limbo (much like Congress, although I'll leave the irony at that) - and with no search, you'll have to head over to the official website for older content. This was a major oversight from what is an otherwise-appealing application.
What this application lacks in content it makes up in quality - particularly video. Taking advantage of the iPhone's relatively small resolution in comparison to desktop computers, video quality is nothing short of pristine. No hiccups in streaming whatsoever over the several Wi-Fi hotspots we tested (the lack of 3G streaming was unavoidable due to AT&T regulations). Links to videos do not run through YouTube, but the official White House website. That means you have hour long videos from the second you tap "Play".
The plethora of screenshots included in this review (below) show off the true beauty of the application. Visually, the royal blue approach is both pleasing and powerful. Subtle details are often what makes or breaks an application: and this application pays great attention to detail. A rundown of each section of the application can only do it so much justice:
Blog - the official White House posts. On a typical day you can expect to see two/three posts added, each with their own option to send to your e-mail or view in Safari. It's text with only the occasional image, so it's light on the data. An example of the intrinsic detail I mentioned earlier can be seen in every blog page: tapping on the screen removes the top bar, giving you maximum viewing space for reading.
Photos - Added spontaneously but frequently, new photos plus a quick paragraph let you delve into the White House a little bit closer.
Newsroom - The latest news released from The White House and a few select sources, notably the Wall Street Journal.
Live - Stream live video from The White House, as you would online. This alone makes the application worth keeping, as whether you're home or away, and as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can keep up to date with what the White House has to offer. The Obama administration has turned a new leaf on technology, utilizing its power to talk to every person - US citizen or not. The Live section is key to this.
A major issue that we have experienced with this application is its build quality. Even after re-installation, we were able to trigger a number of crashes by doing something as simple as tapping a link. We hope that the team is working on the next version to resolve this issues in what is otherwise an excellent application. Whether you're a politics enthusiast or are just interested in something a little different, the White House application is one of the best place to start.