Last year I heard pretty much nothing but complainants about the app from the New York Comic Con. As I mentioned in the general impressions report the reception in the Javits Centeris awful. So when the app was Internet access dependent last year, meaning most people could only use the app when they were outside, making it next to useless inside the con itself. Also someone like me who has a iPod Touch without constant Wi-Fi could download the app but it would be useless to me a good deal of the time. Thankfully this year they took a good deal of the criticism on the app into account and made something far more usable for everyone.
First the part that ushers in the Hallelujah Chorus. The app downloads itself to your device so it can be used while you are offline. This made the app go from a novelty to something that was indispensable. I never opened up my con book during the convention (I did look at it when I was home) because whenever I needed to look up something I just checked it on the app. They were a good number of ways to look for content. You could browse for panels, guests, exhibitors, events, and artists. Each section also had several formats in which you could break down the listings. There were times I wanted to break down panels by day and other times I just wanted to see what panels I had put in my schedule. Also all the sections were nicely cross referenced. Clicking on a panel would show the description of a panel, the topics tagged on a panel, and the speakers involved. You could then use that to hop to a selection of all the panels involving that topic or to the bio of any of the speakers involved. Clicking on a guest would get you their bio, their panels, and signings. You could easily explore any subject and deep as you wanted which was great especially if you wanted to follow someone or something.
As well as the spectacular features there were some workman parts that brought the app together. The first was the search function. Any good con app has a robust search feature if it is worth its salt. The search did a good job of getting any instance of what you were looking for. There was also a rather detailed maps section that had each section of the convention alongside a wonderful map of the exposition hall. There was a built-in QR Code Reader which I did not use but I am sure would have been helpful if I had a dedicated WiFi connection. There was also a good deal of social media integration. You could post to Twitter and Facebook through the app quite easily as well as go to any of the related web sites to see if they had any updates. Thankfully the app was as integrated with social media as you wanted. You could tweet through it if you chose to but it did not constantly bug you to connect it to your twitter account like some other tools. You could also mark anything from artists to panels as favorites for your personal schedule and just see the items on that list at any time.
But while I have overall good things to say about the new app it is hardly a bed of roses. My old friend and mentor in college Alex Feinman once said on of the main reasons people watch NASCAR is for the crashes. The announcers know that but it is ghoulish to talk about looking forward to potential injury so they use the code word “action” instead of “crash”. Well they is plenty of action going on with this app. It felt like every 10th action would cause the app to crash. It was worse than the Guidebook app and that crashed quite a bit as it was. It was not helped by the fact that the NYCC app could be as slow as molasses in the winter. The app sometimes took 30 to 45 seconds to load which is forever in app time. And certain pages like the showroom map seem to take an eternity to load on top of the already glacial load times. Having to wait for the app to load again after it just crashed could be extremely infuriating. Also I know this is just part of the NY Comic Con being a for profit con but I did find the pervasive integrated ads a little cheesy.
There are a few things I would like to see in the next iteration of the app. The first is chart view of the schedule. Nothing helps me plan my time better and visualize what is going on like a chart view. I am not sure why con apps don’t often have them but they are a priceless feature. The second would have been an option to send your favorites and personal schedule to an email address. That would be a nice further network integration and let you print a physical schedule if you needed it. I also wanted a complete map of the Javits Center. There were maps of the individual sections but no uber map that shows where each section is in relation to the other sections and the convention center itself. Since I know the Javits Center I figured it out rather quickly but not everyone has that knowledge. I would have also liked if it could have given me reminders for signings and panels. That is always a helpful feature for a forgetful person like me. Also while the app frequently updates it did not mention what it updates when it updates itself. If there are schedule changes or new panels added you have hunt down and notice those changes on your own. They should make a page that just list what updates, schedule changes, and cancellations have taken place on the app.
I know that I did go on a bit of what was wrong and what could be changed about the app but overall I was impressed. As I said I never needed to crack open the con guide with the app in my hand. The convenience and power it provided more than made up for its limitations. Also they seemed to have listened to the major complaints from last year so I hope they will continue to do so this year. With some tighter and less buggy code plus a few tweaks here and there this could be even MORE of an essential tool for anyone attending NYCC 2012.
P.S.: This is only a full review of the iOS version of the NYCC app. If anyone has any comments on the Blackberry or Android versions I am curious to hear what the differences are.
More NY Comic Con and Anime Festival and 2011 posts:
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Tweets
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: General Impressions
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Exhibitors Hall
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Panels
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Screenings
NY Comic Con 2011: Venture Bros.