Where magazines and digital meet
and have a fun time together.
So what’s the deal?
I’m kicking off this re-launch of reviews on the site with SPIN Play not because it’s a new release (the app came out back in the spring), but because it’s a magazine I’ve really enjoyed on iPad since its launch, and I feel like it needs to be covered here.
SPIN Play is in essence the iPad edition of the monthly music magazine, although on top of what’s in each issue you get access to the web content and more importantly, tons of music.
Who made it?
The app was developed by Bottle Rocket, a studio also responsible for the excellent NPR apps.
Why would I want to get this?
You’ll want to get this if you’re a music fan, especially for the type of music that tends to be covered by SPIN (what used to be described as “alternative,” a term that has sort of lost its meaning these days — let’s describe it as focusing on smaller label artists). This is something I should cover in the conclusion, but it needs to be said now: If there ever was a category of print magazines that benefits from a digital edition its the music press — there’s really nothing that beats being able to listen to the music you’re reading about.
What am I going to find inside?
On top of all the content from the magazine, the real selling point of the app is that it includes tons of tracks — pretty much every article in the magazine has an accompanying track and/or video. What’s even better is that all of the music from each issue is stored inside an in-app music player, and so you can easily access and play all of the music from all of the issues you’ve purchased — and this works even in the background, while you’re in another app (this was something that you couldn’t do at launch, and it was one of my initial gripes, but it was fixed a few months later).
So how do you read this thing, anyway?
SPIN Play does quite a few differently from the average magazine app. First of all, it fully embraces its landscape-only presentation. Also, when you access an issue, there’s no “table of contents” page, but instead there are images for each section and article in the issue. Once you are tap on an image and are in an article, you can then simply swipe to the next article. Each article is a mix of standalone page, normal scrolling pages (for short pieces), and “page scrolling” articles (for the longer features). When you get to the end of the issue, there’s an area that lets you go directly to any video that was featured in the issue (and there are quite a few, which is another great thing about this app).
An interesting thing they’ve done with the reviews section — arguably the most important section in a music magazine — is that it’s not included in the issues, but instead treated in its own section in the app (along with the news section, which grabs posts from the SPIN website). So all reviews are kept in that section, for all of the issues you’ve downloaded (or it may be independent of purchased issues, I’m not sure as I’ve purchased every issue). Again, each review usually has a track that you can listen to from the album, which absolutely trumps print.
It should also be noted that SPIN Play supports the new iOS 5 Newsstand, and so your app will appear in the Newsstand “folder,” with new issues automatically downloaded in the background.
What were they thinking?
There’s really not much to note, at least nothing that gets in the way of my enjoyment of the magazine. As I mentioned earlier, my biggest gripe when it first launched was that you couldn’t listen to music outside of the app, but that was later fixed in an update.
The biggest issue though for anyone living outside of the US without access to the US iTunes Store is that the app is only available in that store — I’m assuming that this is because of the licensing deals that allow them to include so much music with each issue.
Bottom line, should I buy this?
I’ve been praising this app through tweets ever since the first issue was released, and I can honestly say that it’s my favorite magazine experience on iPad — I should mention that I say this as a huge music fan. To me, it just feels like the iPad is such a natural fit for a music publication, taking advantage of the device’s media support.
They also got pricing right on the first try, which is not something you tend to see. Each issue is already a good deal at $2 a pop, but you can buy an annual subscription (12 issues) for $8, which is an amazing bargain.
Update: There’s one negative aspect of the app that I forgot to raise when I originally wrote this, and that’s the fact that it doesn’t remember your spot/page if you stop reading and come back later.