App Watch: A look at what publishers are launching in mobile apps
Application: Smithsonian Visitors Guide & Tours
Produced By: Smithsonian Institution
Platform: iOS and Android
Ever walked into a museum and felt… overwhelmed? How about 19 of them? This is the challenge for visitors at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., where an embarrassment of riches can become simply an embarrassment for anyone who gets lost between Apollo 11 and Archie Bunker's chair. Luckily, there's now an app for that—the Smithsonian Visitor's Guide.
Produced by the editors of Smithsonian magazine, the app is designed to help smartphone-toting museum (and National Zoo) visitors get the most from their experience. The app features specialty tours for art lovers, history buffs and parents; helpful maps and transit guides; an up-to-date list of must-see exhibitions; and a "friend finder" feature allowing check-ins with people you know up and down the National Mall.
Perhaps most interesting is a digital postcard feature, which, through the magic of photo effects, lets visitors take pictures of themselves in and among various famous objects, wearing the Hope Diamond or riding a dinosaur. No word on whether you can put yourself in a lion's jaws at the zoo.
The app is continually updated by Smithsonian, and offers tie-ins with the magazine and its Around The Mall department, whose expertise about all things quirky and cool among the museum's vast holdings (fossilized sloth dung, anyone?) helps make it an especially interesting download.
- James Sturdivant
Application: RedEye for iPad
Produced by: Mag+
Price: Free, within-app purchase options
Readers of the Chicago newspaper RedEye will be pleased to know that there is now an iPad version of the paper published Monday through Friday, just like the print version. RedEye, produced by the Chicago Tribune Media Group, is Chicago's #1 free daily newspaper. Like the newspaper, the "RedEye for iPad" app focuses on stories in news, sports, pop culture and entertainment, aimed at Chicagoans in their 20s and 30s. However, the app is not simply repurposed print content; it is designed to give readers an immersive reading experience that is more like a magazine than a newspaper. "In the app there are a lot of hidden gems and pop ups that engage users. The app offers a great deal of interaction and a multimedia experience through embedded videos, photo galleries, gaming and social media sharing capabilities," RedEye editor Tran Ha tells Publishing Executive.