It started out as an idea, released on YouTube as a proof of concept of what a digital magazine “could” look like. We eventually found out that Adobe was working closely with Wired to create a magazine that could be ported to any mobile device with ease. For those of you not in the know, Adobe AIR is pretty much flash driven. What’s that mean? It means Apple wouldn’t let the applications run on their device and therefore the proof of concept was temporarily squashed.

Wired then found themselves scrambling to recreate their application so that they could submit it to the AppStore. Finally, the application has been approved by Apple Inc. and users can now download it for $4.99. Is it worth the $4.99? Our early opinion is yes. It might not be worth it down the road, but currently $4.99 to play with a magazine that may very well be setting the stage for digital magazines down the road is worth the price point, even if you’re not a fan of the magazine.

The obvious question is — does the application live up to the proof-of-concept that was released earlier, and does the application suffer from the quick transition from AIR to Objective-C?

Where the Wired iPad application shines

The Wired team really understood what was at stake when they put together the application, and they’ve succeeded in making the magazine a rich experience. Included in the whopping 500mb download is video footage from Toy Story 3, audio from a Trent Reznor project as well as other audio and video footage. Being able to get rich media along side an article is something not unfamiliar for web-users, but seeing it along side excellent articles in an established magazine really helps set the medium apart from the traditional print model.

While the inclusion of rich media is a great next step for print media, it certainly needs to be a little bit more polished. I was really digging the Ratatat track that Wired included in an article, but once you change to a new article (swiping left or right), the music ends. It seems a little counterintuitive to me, considering the page it was on had about a minute’s worth of content to read. Also, letting users continue the track from where they left off when they do return to that page would have been a huge plus. As it sits currently, you can play or pause the track, but if you leave the page, you’ll be starting from scratch on the audio track. Outside of this one little gripe, the inclusion of audio is phenomenal, and Wired has really done a great job of merging visual and audio mediums into their app. The audio is used in a supplementary way, and really adds a new element to the text that surrounds the audio they’ve included.

It needs some extra polish

The magazine is laid out on a double axis—scrolling up and down will drill you down into one particular article, scrolling left and right will take you to the previous or next article. It works, in theory, but the implementation seems a little sloppy. In some cases Wired has put up visual indicators to let you know if you should be scrolling down for more content, but it’s not always obvious. The worst offender of this is multiple page advertisements. There’s absolutely no way to know that another page is present for an advertisement. If I was an advertiser, I’d be keeping this in mind when deciding to pay for ad space. I never once scrolled down on an ad, and I didn’t even notice that there was another page on any ad until I started to play with the quick navigation options to scroll through the content quickly. That’s a major problem if Conde Nast is hoping to offer up the iPad edition of their magazine as another medium for advertisers.

Quick Gripe

Why the heck are the terms and conditions for the app on the second-last page of their digital magazine? The very last thing they say in the terms and conditions is, “If you do not agree to the above terms and conditions, you are forbidden from downloading, registering for, or using the app.” A little late there, isn’t it Conde Nast? I just used your application, in it’s entirety, and now I don’t agree with your conditions. Shouldn’t this be front and centre?

Watch our video of the App in Action

Final Thoughts

The application could have used a little bit more time in the oven, but all in all the Wired team put together the best example of a digital magazine to date.  Despite the minute annoyances listed above, this application is the first time we’ve ever felt like a digital magazine wasn’t a cheap PDF port to the iPad.  Wired has really set the bar high in it’s first application, and we’re sure they’ll continue to push the envelope just a little bit further with every single subsequent application. Evidently we’re not alone in our opinion of the application — during the last week the application has risen to the number one spot on iTunes Top Grossing and Top Paid iPad Apps listings.  Early reports are indicating that Wired has sold over 24,000 copies of their first magazine after just 24 hours of being available in the AppStore.  That’s pretty damn impressive when you consider that this whole concept is still new.

If there was ever a $4.99 application that was worth the price, this would be it.  It feels like you’re staring right into the future every single time you turn the page.

You can download the application on the AppStore

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