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Editor's Choice » International

Major thumbs-up for Vatican's newly launched Pope App

A writer who is normally skeptical of the Vatican's communication efforts is full of praise for this latest offering.

Major thumbs-up for Vatican's newly launched Pope App
Thomas L. McDonald International

January 25, 2013

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I may have to take back all the bad things I’ve been saying about Vatican communications. (Okay, some of them.) First, the Pope starts Tweeting, and now they roll out an app.

And … it’s actually a pretty good one! Given how crummy the Vatican’s own website is, this is nothing short of amazing.

The Pope App (free, iOS, and Android forthcoming) could have been all kinds of wrong, from the function, to the name, to the icon. (Icons matter on mobile.)  Instead, The Pope App hits most of the bases in style. The name is light, direct, and almost saucy. Just imagine the ponderous Latin names that were probably kicked around. The icon has a bold yellow silhouette of Papa Bene. The only strike I can really level against the rollout is that it’s iPhone-native only, with no native iPad support, and no simultaneous Android.

Why am I starting with these incidentals rather than the content? Because content is (or should be) obvious, but the incidentals show an awareness of how to work with the mobile–and particularly the iPhone–ecosystem. Style matters, and although I adore our tendency to the baroque in visual matters, in the this particular marketplace of ideas, you need a certain kind of approach. If you want to see how to do it wrong, look at the Vatican Radio app. The Pope App does it right.

The app opens onto a home screen featuring rotating images of the Pope with a headline and a few lines of his most recent address. This can be opened to the full address in-app, formatted for mobile reading.

A menu system has live events (empty now); a calendar of papal events; a list of recent  speeches  homilies, and audiences, with full-text; news stories fed by Vatican Radio; a gallery of images; video of recent addresses (dubbed or narrated in English); links to other Vatican resources (including his Twitter and account and various web pages); and the only really unexpected part of the package: webcams! Feeds from St. Peter’s Square, the dome of St. Peter’s, a full shot of the basilica (currently on the fritz), the Governorate, and the garden at Castel Gandolfo.

This is a nice piece of work. It’s simple, light, but full of useful stuff. It needs push notifications to alert people to new content or live events, and some more text and video, including historical material like his inaugural homily and important addresses and encyclicals. There’s room for growth, but there always is with apps. The important thing is that they seem to have the fundamentals right.

Full Story: Habemus Appam: The Pope’s Own App 


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