Two software releases of note: one is much improved, one needs to be much improved.
First is the rebranded Barnes & Noble Nook app (formerly eReader). It works much better than the first release, providing customization features that outshine both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle reader for iPad. Glenn Fleishman over at TidBITS provides the details. While I hadn’t bought any Barnes & Noble vended books for the previous iteration of the app (though I did look at several book samples), this version is tempting me to start stocking the app’s virtual shelves. I only wish there were some interoperability among ebook readers, because I am starting to find it difficult to remember which books I have in which apps, and it’s only going to get worse as time goes on.
Second is TV Guide’s woefully clumsy TV Guide for iPad app. After only ten minutes with the app I’ve already decided to consign it to the Island of Lost Apps.
It all started when I tried to see the HD channels offered by my cable service. My service starts those channels at channel 401, and I could not find any way to get to those channels other than by swiping…and swiping…and swiping down the long list of channels.
So, strike one: the channel listing has very poor navigability in an age where most cable services offer hundreds of channels.
Then I decided to build up a list of “favorite” channels and put my HD channels there. I tapped the Favorites button and was alerted that I had no favorites and had to select a channel to add. Fair enough. So I selected a channel, but discovered that there was no way to make the channel a favorite. Turns out that one must select a show on that channel and then, in the information panel for that show, tap a button to make the channel a favorite.
Strike two: the app lied to me.
Once I had tapped the right button, I got an alert notification that I explicitly had to dismiss, informing me that I had just added a favorite (yes, TV Guide app, I know I did: my short-term memory is not that poor!). Once the alert was dismissed, I was left on the TV show’s information panel, and found that, unlike many floating panels, which close when you tap outside of their boundaries, this one had to be explicitly closed by tapping a small, Windows-style close button in the panel’s upper-right (Windows? Really? This is an iPad I’m using, isn’t it?). Recap: to add just one favorite required a lot of swiping and four separate taps.
So, strike three: extremely cumbersome user interface.
But apps aren’t baseball, so I thought I’d give the app another chance.
I looked at the listings for the favorites I had painfully added and found that the channels were not listed in the order in which I’d added them. I had to rearrange them manually—and discovered that the rearrangement wouldn’t stick. Furthermore, while the main channel listings in the app provide a two-hour spread for each channel, the favorites listings only display the shows that are on at that hour, with no easy way to see what’s playing an hour or two later.
Strikes four and five: inconsistent and error-ridden behavior. Send this batter back down to the minors for more—much more—seasoning.
In short, in its current state, the TV Guide for iPad app is a shining example of a user interface disaster. It provides much less utility than the TV Guide site in mobile Safari, which is graceful and polished by comparison. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use the app. I certainly won’t.
[Update 26 August 2010:] It turns out that TV Guide does provide a way to go to a high-numbered channel quickly in the main listings. If you look really really closely at the right edge of the screen, you’ll see a vertical row of widely spaced light blue 1-pixel dots over the darker blue of the listings grid. Tap on the row of dots to jump up or down in the listings: if you tap toward the bottom of the row, you’ll be in the higher numbered channels; tap toward the top and you jump back to the lower-numbered channels. A useful feature, and almost visually impossible to find (I discovered it quite by accident). So, one point for a useful feature and minus 0.75 points for making it so hard to discover.