iPad Failures

Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra
Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra

I have a confession to make. Kleo and I own an iPad.

I bought it because I could do things with it. It truly is useful. When I leave the house I rarely carry the laptop now, I usually email whatever I’m writing to the iPad, and using Apple’s Pages word processing software, continue working. I use it for appointments, note taking, and general organizational purposes.

If I don’t have time to work, I can read. Today I finished reading Elizabeth Moon’s new book, Echo’s of Betrayal. If I can’t concentrate on reading, I play Solitaire.

There’s some fantastically neat applications available for the iPad. Exoplanet is the ultimate app for Science Fiction fans. Laser Kitten will keep your cat amused. iTunes U has some neat courses. I.S.P. Survivor is my favorite time waster (game). The National Film Board of Canada has its own application. I have an iRig, can plug my electric guitar into it, and using the Amplitube software make some really neat sounds.

So why am I calling the article iPad Failures?

MacLean’s Magazine

I was reading an article on the MacLean’s Magazine website using my iPad. It mentioned downloading the article in their custom iPad application. When I checked it in the App Store, it had a customer rating of 2 Stars.

  1. 170 people gave it 1 Star
  2. 19 people gave it 2 Stars
  3. 18 people gave it 3 Stars
  4. 12 people gave it 4 Stars
  5. 27 people gave it 5 Stars

It is hard to get people to rate applications, books, etc. A common complaint I hear from writers and software architects is that no one ever writes a review of their work. Look at the thousands of books on Amazon that don’t have a single review!

If you have 170 people so upset at you that they felt compelled to give you a 1 Star rating on a version available only since December 18, 2011, just over two months, you’ve got a serious problem.

Even worse, 116 of those people felt compelled to write a review. The first 21 reviews I read were 1 Star reviews. I like MacLean’s. It has good coverage of current events, and their regular website actually works. Their iPad efforts? Going by the ratings and reviews, MacLean’s didn’t do very well, and even worse, hasn’t addressed the issue.

NHL Gamecenter 2011-2012 Premium

I like hockey. It’s the sport I grew up playing, the sport I watch. I’m a true blue Toronto Maple Leafs fan, which probably proves something about me and futility. I have half a dozen sports apps on my iPad to keep track of the hockey season.

One of the ones I looked at was NHL Gamecenter 2011-2012 Premium. The customer ratings and reviews convinced me to skip it. Last updated November 19, 2011, the current version has a customer rating of 2 Stars:

  1. 13 people gave it 1 Star
  2. 4 people gave it 2 Stars
  3. 1 person gave it 3 Stars
  4. 1 person gave it 4 Stars
  5. 5 people gave it 5 Stars

There are sixteen reviews. One of them, the person who gave it 4 Stars rates it “Not Bad” but then complains that they can’t get any live games. The description of the application says “Follow the game with the official app from the National Hockey League, the only app that offers live games and video highlights!” Note the underlined text.

Not as many people are upset about the NHL Gamecenter 2011-2012 Premium application. The free application has a far better score, and if the screen shots are accurate, the Premium app is based on the free app. So why did the NHL get the one right, and the other wrong in the eyes of most users? I don’t know, but I know that they’ve had three months to fix the problems, and haven’t.

Fixing Applications

I’ve worked as a programmer. I’m not going to claim elite skills at it, at best I was a plodder. I got things done by being twice as stubborn as anyone else.

While I was never the greatest programmer, I understand the procedures. One of the biggest issues is what is called in the industry Alpha and Beta testing.

For those who aren’t programmers, they are two stages of testing what you’ve built. You need to make sure that it works. The first stage of testing is done in-house, and is often automated as much as possible. The second stage is open to a wider community. Problems are supposed to be reported, and fixed before you start selling the software.

It is very unusual to see consumer ratings of 2 Stars. When you do, you know that something went wrong in the testing process.

So why aren’t they doing anything about the problems? I don’t know. If I was in charge, and I knew I had an application with serious problems, I’d pull it from the App Store until it was fixed. You have to think about your corporate reputation first.


Wayne Borean

Wednesday February 22, 2012


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