It’s Time for an iPhone App Review Show Showdown!

[show=iphoneapps size=large]With the Apple iPhone dominating tech culture, and applications for said device amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the industry, it’s no surprise that more than one web series has risen to guide users to the best and the worst software available. So today, fight fans, we gots ourselves an old-fashioned underdog match-up to answer the following question — which web series reigns supreme at reviewing iPhone apps?

In this corner, with eight episodes having debuted since July 2009, please welcome your David, the independently produced iPhun, hosted by Sean Bonner and directed by Galacticast‘s Rudy Jahchan! And over here in this corner, with 10 episodes out since the beginning of August, it’s the Revision3-produced Goliath, AppJudgment! The challengers shall face off in a three-round battle, evaluating hosts, quality of critique and production values, and only one will emerge the victor. LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMMBLE!


Bonner clearly knows iPhone apps, and there’s no question that his point-of-view is the dominating one here. He shows a special interest in how the games make use of the iPhone’s unique user interface capabilities, such as in the game Zen Bound, and in general comes off as friendly and personable, albeit somewhat subdued.

AppJudgment, meanwhile, has a team of reviewers whose on-air presentation is uneven and leaves the show a bit lacking in point-of-view. Stephanie Chu, for example, shows some gumption during the more sketch-based elements of her Quicken Online Mobile review, but has the glazed look of a newbie to the world of teleprompters — she’s reading a script, not connecting with her audience. Patrick Norton, meanwhile, keeps up his energy during a breakneck review of Twitter apps, but he lacks Alex Albrecht’s spark of personality.

Winner: iPhun

Quality of Critique

iPhun takes the Siskel and Ebert approach to criticism, framing each episode as a discussion between Bonner and a guest over the app. Edited down (by Ask a Ninja‘s Kent Nichols), the result is a tight 1- to 2-minute review that still feels like an authentic conversation, and Bonner’s insights are definitely fresh. However, the emphasis is entirely on criticism, with minimal opening demonstration or set-up of the application in question, which means you have to be familiar beforehand.

AppJudgment, running at 4-5 minutes an episode, must be applauded for its thoroughness, first profiling the application in full before moving onto a pro-and-con breakdown. Even the Twitter app episode, which covers four different pieces of software in a short time span, gets in some good details. But its overproduced nature, plus the lack of a central personality’s voice, means that each one feels vaguely impersonal.

Winner: AppJudgment

Production Values

iPhun‘s opening sequence, which combines time-lapse photography and a nostalgic 8-bit theme tune, is really charming. But the actual episodes are shot as a barebones two-shot in front of a pretty basic greenscreen, with which more could be done.

And while I like that the iPhone demos are done by simply pointing a camera over Bonner’s shoulder while he plays with the app, it definitely lacks the polish of AppJudgment. Old pros at the talking-head genre, Revision3 has brought that expertise once again, setting up its hosts against clean, black backgrounds, animating their points with slick motion graphics and intercutting it all with demos of the apps so professional they could be used by Apple for its own ads.

However, sure Revision3 looks great, but it’s the humble viewer who pays the price. I’d be fine watching a pre-roll ad prior to an episode. I’d be fine with an interstitial “message from our sponsors.” I’d even be OK with an overlay ad, provided I had the option to minimize it. But ALL THREE, in a 5-minute episode — and with an overlay ad that can’t be minimized (instead vanishing after about a minute)? I know times are tough, but I’m sorry: Disqualified!

WINNER: iPhun by default!

A narrow victory — especially if you don’t mind that much advertising in your web video and, thus, disagree with said disqualification. But perhaps both shows can live in peace, as their unique focuses — iPhun on games, AppJudgment on service apps — mean that there’s no huge overlap in content. And who knows what other web series will appear in the coming months to review even more obscure genres of mobile software? To paraphrase Apple’s marketing geniuses: Whatever it might be, there’s a web series for that.