Sheffield iPhone App

December 17, 2010

We’re not really a tech magazine, but when Sheffield launched its own mobile app this week, available for iPhone, iPad and Android, we were quick to give it a spin.

The aim of the app is to give people an easy way to show off Sheffield’s best bits when talking business around the world. As Creative Sheffield said at the launch: “Wherever you are in the world, Toronto, Tokyo or Tinsley, we want you to be able to show the people you meet how brilliant Sheffield is – simply at the touch of a button.”

This is all good in principle, but sadly, and perhaps inevitably, the app only really highlights pieces of a very graphic ‘brand’. Sheffield itself is somewhere lurking in the background, colour saturated to oblivion underneath some fairly inane slogans.

What’s striking about the app is its lack of animation. You begin with a menu of generic icons for Business, Culture, Photos and LinkedIn. Each one takes you to a list of titles, which then link to still images with facts laid on top of them. Sheffield Is A City That Makes Things Happen. Sheffield Has A Work Ethic You Can Rely On. Sheffield Is The Place To Meet. Ad iNfinitum. For some reason there’s also loads of Hang Gliding going on in the photos.

On top of the visual stasis, the app doesn’t really utilise one of the main purposes of technology like this, namely that you can get any information, live, in the format you want. It has no means of updating, or even pulling in external data. It could have done something as simple as displayed a feed of Sheffield Flickr images, so that you could show what people in Sheffield see, now. Or it could have combined the facts about venues with listings of what’s happening there now. Without anything like this, there’s no reason to come back to it for a second time.

Despite not being aimed at me, or your general resident, it still seems unrealistic that when asked by a potential business partner – what’s Sheffield like? – that you would instantly reach into your pocket and give them someone else’s powerpoint presentation on the subject. You’d come across as weirdly brainwashed, as if you had no impressions of your own, or even photos of the place snapped on your iPhone. Imagine doing the same when asked about your children – “I don’t really know, but here are some photos of other similar kids.”

For what it does, I think I’d rather have a set of novelty playing cards


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