BREAKING NEWS & VIEWS
The Economist Gives iPhones a Welcome Data Dump
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The best aspect of the app is its hand-holding interface. Despite the incredibly deep trove of information about each nation the app contains, it all comes to you via a three button entryway. The user can access the data by scrolling through an alphabetized list of stats (from balance of payments to transportation). Many of the major categories have many more granular data points – down to items like longest road networks or lowest growth in agriculture.
The first option in the app has you find any of these data points by rank order. But you can also drill from another direction – by country – and then find the specific data item attached to a given country. In a final option, you can compare a statistic across multiple nations. The interface walks you through the process of creating a comparison list of nations.
At just about any level of the drill down, from country on down to specific country’s data point, you can bookmark the entry for later retrieval. The stats can be shared as well, through email or posting to Facebook.
And we did say there was some levity involved? Well, there is a trivia feature. At load and via a menu item the user can get pop-up trivia associated with the data, which also can be shared with friends.
We wish the search function were more flexible. The search seems to recognize only the topmost categories. Even searching for an explicit data point we knew was in the data base proved fruitless. The app could be enhanced and made all the more useful with relevant headline feeds. After all, if the user is interested in the stats around a specific country then surely he or she would like to see the latest news associated with the topic. As much as we like having this treasure trove of data, a more creative use of the app's native connectivity seems to have been missed.
Overall, however, the app is a handy tool for the policy and politics lover, the journalist and pundit who wants easy and quick access to the kinds of information that once sent us to massive gazetteers and phone book-like world fact books. Which is all the more reason for a more powerful and smart search function.
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