is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Much to my surprise, I’ve become a regular user of my Kindle Fire. I never expected that to be the case, since I was so unimpressed with it at its debut. But when I realized that I was toting it along with me just about every day, I also realized that the only app I ever used on it was the tablet version of The New Yorker. If you’re a devoted reader of that magazine and you ride the New York City subway, you’d probably agree with me that it’s much easier to read it on the smaller, more easily gripped Kindle Fire than it is on an iPad, especially on the always-crowded L train.
For some reason, Condé Nast decided that creating a full-text iPhone version of The New Yorker app was not a priority. Until now. As of this week, there’s a brand new iPhone version available as part of iOS’ Newsstand. Each print issue is now available in full, delivered automatically on Monday.
This probably puts an end to the Fire’s usefulness for me. Unlike plenty of others, I actually enjoy reading on my phone. Having a phone with me at more or less all times is a huge advantage over the additional screen real estate that a tablet — 7-inches or otherwise — affords.
So a new iPhone version of The New Yorker would have to be really bad for me to not want to use it. The bar is very, very low, I should say.
Luckily, the app clears that bar. I’m not sure how much further above the bar it rises just yet, but the app does work. Which is to say, it seems to carry over many of benefits as well as many of the problems that its iPad and Fire versions have.
To list a few of the problems: on my admittedly aging iPhone 4, I see a lot of progress spinners as the app desperately tries to load pages while I swipe from article to article. It just shouldn’t be necessary to wait for text as much as Condé Nast’s apps ask us to wait for text, not in this day and age. And the app’s insistence on pagination — and vertical pagination, at that — instead of natural scrolling is typical print-centric fussiness; the byproduct of this is that some articles ask users to page through as many as forty or fifty screens. Pagination, along with the inability to resize the font size for your own comfort, is probably required to preserve the app’s exquisite typography. It seems particularly cruel to disallow font resizing on a phone app, especially one whose main purpose is to read, but hey this is Condé Nast, so we take what we can get.
On the plus side, the app offers all the fantastic content of each issue of The New Yorker, finally available in a convenient, mobile form — finally! That’s a win, in my book. Also, I can now ditch my Kindle Fire.+