I've been a little slow getting in on the app game despite having an iPad2 for at least two years now; maybe it's because I pretty much only used the iPad to play Ms. PacMan (which my husband put on knowing that would be my first priority because I'm awesome at it - don't laugh!), and I work from home so I'm on my laptop all day and tend to use websites since that's what's in front of me.
But it was time I got onto exploring the universe of apps available to us through our devices, it got embarrassing having to shake my head 'no' when asked if I know this one or that one, then having to explain that I am actually otherwise clued into the online world, I work strictly with digital media for a living! So, when browsing mobile phones on the web to find out what the current upgrade on my phone looks like, I came across some fashion and beauty apps and decided to put in some time seeing what clever things are out there.
In terms of shopping, clearly I like Net-a-porter. They are the pioneers of online luxury shopping and became the model to follow in terms of website design and product presentation, and they've also got a fantastic online magazine. So I was curious how all of this web greatness translates on an Android mobile phone, specifically the HTC Sensation which is what I use.
This is what the homepage of the app looks like (images are screencaps from Net-a-porter's video):
The landing page automatically opens on the Shop tab from which you can select 'What's New', browse the designer directory and product categories, or see a curated grouping of products via the 'Trend Edit' option. Or you can select the News tab which appears to be the mobile version of their digital magazine, Edit which features brilliantly shot editorial - you can always shop the shoot directly from the page because, of course, everything featured is from Net-a-porter - as well as interviews and trend stories. And also from the front page is a 'Live' option which is something exclusive to the app, and something that took me a few seconds to figure out. 'Why is it showing me products and telling me that they've been added to so-and-so's shopping bag or wish list?' Ah, ok, this is the social aspect worked in. I probably wouldn't browse this feature again, but I am aware that some others would be interested in being influenced by others' choices and so I can see its relevance in a shopping app (as you probably already know, there are shopping apps and websites based entirely on this principle, one of which is coming up). And I suppose it can bring items to your attention that we may not otherwise come across in the vast yet discerning sea that is Net's product offering.
Since the primary purpose of the app is shopping, I tried to buy an item (stopping short of the actual purchase, unfortunately!) to see how the selection process and shopping cart function compares to the smoothness of the website. I selected the 'Shoes' category from the homepage which went to the 'Shoes Type' page where you can select the style you want to look at or just go with 'All Shoes' which is what I did. Then I decided I wanted to see what Esquivel shoes they currently have (my favourite) and to do that I returned to the homepage by hitting 'Net-a-porter' in the top left corner of the screen and found the brand in the Designer A-Z page. It gave me four style options, and I clicked on red brogues with a white detail that has a spray-painted effect because they were screaming for my attention. I ran into a few glitches with the images. I got 'image not available' a few times and as I scrolled through was able to see other shots rather randomly. The first three looked low-res whereas the remaining four were crisp. I wondered for a second how you buy the item and tried pulling up a menu from the bottom I hoped was there, and it was. From this menu you can select to view each of the details you get from the product page view on the website. But I couldn't figure out how to add it to the cart. Trying to conjure an 'add' feature with my finger wasn't working, but after staring at the screen for longer than I'd care to admit, I noticed a + button in the top right corner. I hit it and was given the option to add the shoes to the shopping bag or wish list. I selected 'shopping bag' and a list of sizes dropped down. I went for my Esquivel size which is US 7 and then it showed me my selection with the total and a button to confirm the purchase. I didn't do that since I wasn't actually buying them (nuts!) but I'd assume the purchase would have been successful. I should mention that I browsed quite a few other products and didn't find any image problems with those - everything loaded and looked high-res, so I went back to look at the Esquivels again and guess what, all images loaded and were crisp so it was probably that the images hadn't fully loaded although I did give it some time. I put that down to my phone, not the app.
My overall impression: A smooth and comprehensive app that represents the aesthetic and features of the website well and delivers a similar feel and experience. My one suggestion would be to make the 'add to bag' or 'add to wish list' function more obvious to avoid missing it altogether and abandoning the app in frustration, and ultimately feeling like a dumkopf with no new gear on its way. (Unless this is how all shopping apps work, in which case you can just ignore that last part!)
The Net-a-porter app is free and available for iPad, iPhone and Android in English, French, German and simplified Chinese versions. You can find out more about the app and download it here
Pose is an online and mobile fashion community that has been generating a lot of media buzz and has been called 'The Instagram of Fashion'. There are dozens of sites like it as developers are capitalising on the current hunger for social engagement, fashion show and tells, and the compulsion to buy something right NOW! that looked really hot on a girl who lives in a country that seems so much cooler than your own. Social influence is driving purchasing decisions and the cool kids have it. The developers attract the fashionistas who attract more users who will probably buy something at some point, and they tell their friends about it, and so on.
So I was curious to see what I might get out of it, if anything. For this one I decided to use the iPad2 since the app is image heavy and it's not available for Android anyway. To begin, I had to create an account. I used my email and then was allowed entry. It told me 'Pose is where fashion happens...and you're about to see why.' Ok! Hmm...now it wants me to take a quiz so they can suggest the best people on Pose for me to follow. Can I bypass this? I instantly resent anything that tries to pigeonhole me - I'm a varied and complex individual! And so are you. Oh well. Here we go. I guess it's just trying to make the sea of fashion more digestible and relevant, although it makes me wonder what I'm not being shown. You can skip questions but at the end it automatically chooses people for you to follow. It gave me four users, incuding Rachel Zoe and Coco Rocha. Something tells me that was not random. Next you can create 'collections' to save 'poses' for inspiration, to buy, or to share with your friends. I hit 'stream' and was brought to a page showing me the poses from people I follow, you know, those four I didn't have a say in following. At this point I am prompted to scroll through images, or 'poses' and encouraged to drag some into my collections. The only thing that stands out is a close-up of a grey t-shirt that says 'F*CK' (but with the U) at which point I'm tempted to create a 'So Subversive' collection just for it. (I don't.) I notice buttons scattered throughout that have a user name and image and they seem to be competing for my attention, so I bite and hit one to see what happens. It brings me to this person's stream and indicates I am now following them. Again, no choice and no prior indication this would happen. This particular Poser has 6646 followers and is following 45 people back. That's not very sociable. At this point I know it's definitely not for me. It hasn't offered anything different from other similar interactive fashion communities I've seen (not that I've seen everything), other than it's the only one that places you exactly where it wants you, rather than let you create your own experience. I'm an adult, I can make my own decisions. But I persevere because this is a review. I hit 'Shop' in the side menu and select a photo of a girl wearing a white outfit. From here I can shop pieces of the outfit and I wind up on the Barneys site looking at a Sophie Hume bag and it's like a breath of fresh air being there. I go back to the outfit page at which point the left menu navigation disappears, I can't figure out how to get off the page and I take that as a sign that I'm allowed to bail.
My overall impression: If you like looking at style photos of bloggers, celebrities and other fashionistas and don't mind being plunked into an experience that has been quite conspicuously chosen for you, then have a go. You could have fun. One million other people seem to be.
The Pose app is free and can be downloaded for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad here
The last app I'm reviewing is Bangstyle which I saw on a 'Best Beauty Apps of 2012 list'. I thought it might come in handy for avoiding a repeat of my last salon visit where I tried to describe a very popular colour technique to a colourist who had no clue what I was talking about. (How could she not know what ombre is?!) It's always best to have a photo, you really don't want to assume your stylist knows what you're asking for. (I once wound up with what was essentially a layered bowl cut on top of long hair when I asked for volume. No amount of 'blending' by the salon owner who saw the atrocity and stepped in could salvage it. Don't let this happen to you!)
Ok, so first you create a profile, which according to the reviews was a prohibitively glitchy process at some point and got the app lots of low ratings. It's not anymore and I was able to sign up quickly. Next I'm taken to the Image Community for Hair page (above left) and have a browse of the styles. There is just one page and when I get to the last one a window pops up telling me it's the last and to go to 'Fresh Pix' to view more. I return to the Image Community and see the Fresh Pix tab at the bottom of the page. The pages do not load quickly which was another gripe users expressed in the reviews. I've waited for at least 10 seconds to be shown a new set of hairstyle photos which seems excruciatingly long for something that's meant to deliver instant gratification. I don't see anything that jumps out so I load more and wait again. It seems lots of users have not tagged their image because I see many labelled 'photo' which I imagine is a default tag. You can share an image or heart it to save it to your inspiration folder within the app which I tried and found easy and straightforward. I decide to look at the Articles tab and surprisingly, I find articles that have absolutely nothing to do with hair! There's one on cameras, an artist who creates illusions using wood, how to bake message into your cakes...then I see the filter for the articles and yes, it covers anything and everything. Is this meant to take the place of glossy magazines in the salon? Instead of being stuck with an old copy of Hello! to thumb through you read articles on a hairstyle app? Who knows! The My Style feature is where your activity such as saved photos and uploaded pics is organised. There's also a salon locator...still waiting for that to load as I write this... still waiting...I'm glazing over... My phone gave up and went to sleep. After waiting for two minutes I had to quit and start over. I fared no better after a second attempt and now I can't get into anything. Ok! We're back in. Finally. I want to see if I can filter the styles within the Fresh Pix pages so I can look for particular styles I'm interested in. You can't do this on the Image Community page so I'm not sure what the point of it would be unless it features newly added hairstyles? And I'm stuck staring at the swirly circle again. This is a simple app that could be thoroughly checked in just a few minutes so the download time is really frustrating. Ok, at least I'm able to filter styles now, this is where the app becomes useful to me. Or so I thought. I select 'Bangs' and it does nothing. So I try 'Long' and the same thing, nothing. Looking through the list I can see it doesn't have any kind of a colour category which would surely be an essential for people considering a new look? I tried to go back in three more times with no luck. Oh boy. If you were in the salon trying to show a photo from this app you would have one mighty frustrated hairstylist tapping her foot next to you. I bail on it, and I think you know what my final assessment will be.
My overall impression: Slow loading times and being forced to quit - a third complaint mentioned several times in the reviews - makes it impossible to use this app. What a shame as it may have been useful in the salon. A thorough check of the filter function would hav confirmed that either way.
The Bangstyle app is free (it would have to be) and is available for iPhone and Android here if you're still curious.
If you have tried and true suggestions for helpful alternatives please feel free to let us know!