There's nothing like celebrity frenzy, especially a long-in-the-planning one like the Royal Wedding, to bring out the best and worst of mobile application development.
Here's a sampling of the best, worst and in-between mobile apps for Apple iPhones, iPads and other iOS devices being touted as indispensable for keeping track of and connected with The Wedding -- the royal nuptials for Prince William and Catherine Middleton on Friday, April 29, at Westminster Abbey in London.
THE BIG DAY: Will & Kate & YouTube
Royal Wedding, from Neon Play, which focuses on mobile games for iOS. Free for iPhone, but the really good stuff -- 100 "exclusive photographs from one of the world's top royal photographers, Ian Jones" -- is only available as an in-app purchase. The rest is fairly routine, and static, data about Will, Kate, Westminster Cathedral, etc.
Royal Wedding, from AppSNow.co.uk.; $1.99, for iPhone. Version 2.0 promises "MASSIVE UPDATE!" which focuses on interactivity and live feeds: It pulls wedding news from a pack of British newspapers, and a selection of blogs. It promises a "complete social network integrated" just for app users: You can "favorite" and comment on stories, see what's being read by others, and it has tweets from Clarence House, the official residence of William, his brother, Harry, and his father and stepmother, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Royal Wedding Countdown, from Innovative Video Solutions; $2.99. The name refers to the main screen which shows you the time remaining -- down to the second if you're a true Royal Celebrity Obsessive -- before The Wedding begins. The support page is mainly devoted to pleading with users not to write a negative review if you encounter a problem but send them a crash report instead. Good luck with that. Version 2.4 offers an "updated user interface" but doesn't say what's changed, and adds, somewhat belatedly it seems, a link to the official wedding website.
The Royal Wedding by NBC News, from MSNBC, and it seems to be one of the relatively few explicitly designed for iPad. Bankrolled by a "Lamestream" media heavyweight, the app is visually rich. But some of the interactivity seems forced. For example, on "The Dress" page, where the app offers links to content on past royal brides and to "Designers' ideas," it invites you to "Tweet your guess about who the designer will be." That's like a grown-up's idea of Good Tweeting.
IN PICTURES: 10 iPhone and iPad apps to download, then delete
The Royal Wedding by Hello!, from Hello! magazine, a British celebrity site; free, for iPhone and iPad. The app seems to be mainly a way to plug into the website's mind-numbing wedding coverage, where no detail is too small, trivial or mundane. Sample of current headlines: "Kate's jewelry dilemma on her special day"; "'He arrived late': lecturers recall William's first tutorial"; "The team helping transform the future Queen into a style icon."
Royal Wedding Insider, from BBC Worldwide; free, for iPhone and iPad. It doesn't get much more "official" than this. The app promises "insider access" to breaking BBC news, exclusive video, wedding tips from Brides magazine, etc. But it's not clear if this "insider" info is any different from what you'd get on the BBC's main website. It does offer a blog with "daily updates" on all wedding activities. The opulent, picture-heavy screens are somewhat marred by prominent promotions for BBC America's TV premiere of "The Tudors." Those were royals who knew how to be royal: warring, wenching, conspiring, betraying and beheading.
WeeMee Royal Wedding Countdown, by WeeWorld.com, a "social engagement" network for teens and women; free, for iPhone. The emphasis here is on "countdown" -- the app apparently does nothing more than that. In fact, it's so simple that it has generated enough confusion and antipathy among downloaders that someone, apparently from WeeWorld, had to post on iTunes the following explanation: "Many people are confused at what this app does! It's simple! There's a royal wedding in a couple months! This is just the countdown till that day! Well [sic] glad to help!"
Royal Wedding Countdown Timer, from Fruity Digital. Yes, another one. With one difference: "Celebrate each day of the countdown with a new royal family quote!" With a straight face, the app page includes this warning: "Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor." Those naughty royals.
The Royal Wedding Tea Towel App, from MD Media, a UK-based "new media consultancy"; $0.99, for iPhone and iPad. Though billed as an app to "entertain and inform," its main mission seems to be sell "official and unofficial merchandise." An MD Media tweet about two weeks ago trumpeted that "Kate and Wills Wedding Cake Toppers are the most sold items in our Royal Wedding Tea Towel iPhone App." You know: those ... things you stick on top of cakes. It offers Royal wedding music, modern and traditional wallpapers, and promises live coverage of The Wedding, if you're in the U.K.
Royal Wedding Pairs, from Press Association, the "UK's leading multimedia news agency and information provider"; free, for iPhone and iPad. The Association's website assures us that it delivers "unrivalled content and digital media services." Nothing like that makes it into this game, which gives you a deadline to flip pairs of cards and match two of the same type before time runs out. You can hit the "hint buttons" to, basically, cheat. It gives you something to do between checking your Wedding Countdown apps.
William and Kate's Royal Wedding, from Lexington Creative, an iOS app designer; $0.99, for iPhone and iPad. It promises to be the "complete app" for The Wedding. But its "information" about the couple is stuff like "December 2006: Will graduates from Sandhurst," the Royal Military Academy for training army officers (you won't find that fact in the app, by the way); and a raft of other stuff that reads like it was cribbed from Wikipedia or an official website.
Royal Wedding Essential Guide, from BlueYellow Media, Ltd.; $0.99 (half the regular price, for a limited time), for iPhone and iPad. Listed by The Telegraph as one of the 10 best Royal Wedding apps. One of the few that seems to have been designed from the ground up as a mobile app actually useful on the day of the event. An interactive, searchable GPS map lists hundreds of Wedding-related locations: Tap on a map marker to get detailed information, including a Wikipedia link. Bookmark your favorite locations and share them with friends. One section lists "Best Viewing Areas." There's a 3D tour of the Wedding Procession through London streets, a Wedding Twitter feed, and a "Royal Personality Test" (also available as a separate free app). The blend of data, mapping, GPS location, and Web links can double as a guide to Royal London.
Royal Wedding 2011 by 2 for Couples, from 2 for Life, a "gender-neutral" but not age-neutral "lifestyle" website that specializes in 25- to 39-year-old young urban couples. You know, like William and Kate! Free, for iPhone and iPad. The site has a section devoted to The Wedding. Much of the app is routine: Another countdown, photos, one-click "signing" of Will and Kate's guestbook, and daily news updates from the palace. Its main focus seems to be connecting you to the 2 for Life site, and merchandising: One section has souvenirs with recommendations for the best "bling" and "kitschy" picks, and "25 Days of Royal Giveaways! Check back for the chance to win a daily prize fit for a king or queen!"
The Royal Wedding, by Andrew Weekes, who when he's not busy being the "great great grandson of Queen Victoria's official photographer" runs an iOS and MacOS development shop called iCandiApps; $0.99, for iPhone and iPad. This app promises to be the "ultimate portable momentum [presumably "memento"]" of The Wedding. But like many other similar apps, that means access to the official websites, Clarence House Twitter feeds, and official and media photos. And oh yes: a countdown timer.
Royal Wedding -- The Wills & Kate Story, from Trinity Mirror Digital Media, parent company for the British tabloid The Daily Mirror and its online edition, mirror.co.uk, which of course is going bonkers over Wills and Kate; $1.99, for iPhone and iPad. A surprisingly sophisticated and even genteel app given Mirror's storied tabloid past: a storybook format of 10 chapters of extensive photo galleries, with video and audio narration by James Whitaker, a British journo who's made a career of covering the royal family. Each chapter has an intro video and a picture gallery with one-touch access to background details about the picture or subject. Share it all via a Facebook connection.
iDo: Follow London's Royal Wedding, from The Appstillery Ltd.; $0.99, for iPhone and iPad. Classified as a navigation app, iDo uses highly detailed, unique hand-drawn or diagrammatic maps (such as the London subway system), where your current location is automatically plotted. It includes maps created for The Wedding route, and of London; Twitter feeds; a timetable of The Day's events.
Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.