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Every year, an increasing number of people do their shopping online, and an increasing number of those people do that shopping from a mobile device. There are a number of shopping apps designed for the iPad. Finally, Apple has decided to make their own shopping app compatible with the iPad, and just in time for the holidays.

Apple Store app - Free

This is a completely new app, and is separate from the iPhone version of the Apple Store app. It has been completely rethought and retooled specifically for the iPad. It takes advantage of the additional screen real estate, and provides features unique to the device. 

The interface is fresh and clean, sometimes, a little too clean. As you scroll down the main page, you get to something called, Now Trending. In that section, you get nice pictures of items, but no description, not even the name, no text whatsoever. That is a little off-putting, as it is not always apparent what the item is you're looking at. You have to tap the item, which takes you to a larger picture, and a tiny description at the bottom-left corner of the page. You have to tap once again for more details such as price and availability. 

To get back to the main page, you have to pull down on the page to reveal the navigation bar at the top, then, touch the Back button. Apple ignores their own back gesture for this clunkier approach. Swiping from the left edge buys you nothing. Navigation is poorly implemented and unintuitive. 

Thankfully, most of this madness is limited to the Now Trending section. Everything else is just shopping, the way it should be. Checking availability for the iPad mini with Retina display was a breeze. It was quick and intuitive to figure out that my local Apple Store had some in stock. At long last, I can finally go into the Apple Store and pick up a gold iPhone 5S. That would have been quite useful in September. Now, not so much. 

Apple is using this app to experiment with new interface elements. I don't like any of them, and hope they die with this app. The Now Trending section is antithetical to the purpose of discovering, and buying new things. Apple eschews their own navigation protocols for something worse. Going from portrait to landscape does not use the flip effect, but a fade transition that is somewhat off-putting. 

On the plus side, the app is beautiful. It provides a more convenient way to shop than the website. And product pictures are excellent. There is one new feature regarding product photos that is a genuine improvement. When faced with a list of products, you don't have to enter the product to flip through the photos. You can do that just by swiping the photo from right to left. Even that good feature is marred by the fact that it is not discoverable. Most people will never realize they can do that. 

The best that can be said for the app is that it is free, designed for the iPad, and better than the desktop experience. Go get it.

David Johnson

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