WIRED for iPad updated

This app from Condé Nast continues to evolve with the release of version 1.1. Changes in this update include in-app purchases, 50MB preview downloads (similar to what Outside is doing) and support for back issues.

They’ve also added 360 degree panoramas and an in-app browser, so you can visit links without leaving the app. Plus, it’s a dollar cheaper at $4.

It looks great and I’ll have a full review up soon. For comparison, I’ve re-posted my review of the initial release below, originally published at davecaolo.com.

For more on using the iPad as an eReader, check out

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A long time ago, I read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. At one point, a character is described as “listening to a book.” It was a minor detail with no special significance; just a bit of color used to establish a setting.

As an 8th grader with Star Wars PJs, it blew me away.

Years later, when the story was adapted for television, that character used a thin object about the size and shape as a clipboard for reading. No pages, no cover. How, I wondered, could something that incredible exist?

Much was made of the iPad‘s potential as an eReader before its release. Comparisons to the Kindle and Nook were inevitable. Now that some months have passed, users can explore publishers’ initial attempts at electronic distribution. Earlier this week, Condé Nast released an iPad version of WIRED magazine ($4.99) and sold 24,000 copies in the first 24 hours.

That number demonstrates that users want to read magazines on their iPads, and that they’re happy to reward well-done apps. Despite some flaws, I can say that WIRED for iPad is definitely well done. Here’s my experience with reading WIRED on an iPad.

The Good

The Ads. That’s right. Many of the ads in this issue (and there’s a lot of them; more on that later) offer something interesting for my time. For instance, a GE ad lets me rotate a high-def CT scan of lungs and a heart in 3D space. A Heineken ad asks, “Can I touch it?” while the iPad is in landscape orientation and answers “Yes you can!” when turned to portrait orientation. A Pepsi ad plays an embedded video about two kids who won an academic scholarship. It’s sappy, heart-stringy and the kind of thing you won’t see on TV or in print. Yes, it’s odd to identify advertisements as a feature, but I can’t deny that they are.

Bookmarking. Unlike other apps (Kindle for iPad, for example), bookmarking is completely invisible. There’s no need to remember and bookmark a page. The app takes care of that for you. The next time you launch, it will remember where you left off.

The iPad’s display. This isn’t really a feature of the app, but it does look terrific. The display is bright and text is razor sharp. Colors are bright and beautiful. The Kindle’s E-Ink technology has won many fans (it is superior in direct sunlight, after all), but this would be a completely different experience in greyscale. Unfortunately for Kindle customers, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that a color Kindle is “still a long way out.” Of course, this is demonstrative of the app’s real strength…

Takes advantage of the platform. Before the iPad was released, I hoped that video, audio and other goodies would enhance electronic magazines and books. Wired for iPad is a great example of that wish realized.

For instance, the “Invaders from Mars” feature presents an image of the red planet and the man-made machines that have paid it a visit. Slowly swiping across the image rotates it, revealing a photo and brief history of each mission. The illusion of “spinning” the planet is very well done and kind of addictive (you’ll find yourself whirling the planet around even after you’ve read all of the text).

Some articles, like “Riverboat Resurrection,” let you toggle between related photos without leaving the article. A great example of this explains what goes into Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce. As you tap between the numbered steps, a new ingredient is revealed. Others include a clip of related audio or video. It feels like a webpage, so it’s familiar, but it’s much faster, so it’s more satisfying.

This issue’s standout is the Pixar feature, as it combines all of the above. There’s an exclusive clip from the movie. A “Building A Frame” section highlights how a single frame is created, step by step, culminating in a gorgeous, high-resolution image that you’re free to zoom and explore. It looks absolutely fantastic on the iPad’s display.

The Bad

The app has some flaws. Here’s what I found.

The ads. As I mentioned, there are a LOT of ads. Yes, some of them are clever but most aren’t. Several of the ads with extra content want to push you out of the app and into Safari which is disruptive.

The price. At $5 per issue, you’ve met the cost of a year’s subscription to the paper version in two issues. I imagine Condé Nast will explore electronic subscription models, but until they do, 5 bucks per issue just isn’t sustainable.

Swiping. This might sound silly, but there’s a lot of swiping to do. While I love the publication’s use of graphics, it ends up with small amounts of text on the screen at once, even within lengthy articles. This complaint probably represents the height of laziness, but there it is.

The size. At half a gig, the first issue is huge. I’ve got a 16GB iPad and after syncing it full of photos, apps, movies and TV shows, space is at a premium.

Conclusion

It’s fun. It’s impossible to deny how much fun it is to read this version of WIRED.

It’s appealing to non-geeks. In the day that I’ve owned this, I’ve shown it to three people, none of whom are geeks. Each one was completely smitten with the app and took the iPad right out of my hands. I had to wait to get it back. Granted, WIRED is for geeks, but it if the experience can be carried over to other magazines … well, you see where this is going.

It makes me eager for the app’s future. I can’t wait to see what future updates bring.

At the end of the day, what have you got? A killer implementation of a digital magazine. It’s not all eye candy, but the fantastically written and researched WIRED magazine that I’ve read for years. Despite my complaints (most of which are completely fixable), I’m enthused by what the developers have done with this app. I’m looking forward to the app’s future and whatever subscription plan is in the works. If you’ve got an iPad, definitely check this out.

I bet Ray would love it.