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In an attempt to get with the times and extend their campaigning to mobile users, both major parties have been releasing iPhone apps.
I've been comparing the iPhone apps recently released by both Labour and the Conservative Party. I would have reviewed the Lib Dem app as well, but they haven't released one...
Both apps have a news section. On the Labour app, headlines are clearer, a brief extract is provided, as well as a small picture. This makes the headlines easier to scan. It also has a local news section.
On the Conservatives' app, the latest news headlines are not clearly presented, and they don't even look like links:
However, at least the news is actually up to date on the Conservatives app. The screenshots above were taken the morning after the election was called, but the latest news on the Labour app is a couple of days behind, rendering it virtually pointless.
The background on the Tory app of a blue sky may be party colours, but the lighter parts and the relatively small text makes the articles harder to read than those on the Labour app.
This is an area the Labour app wins hands down, since it asks users for their current location and uses this to serve up local news (though it is about two months out of date in my case), as well as the details of Labour candidates in my area.
There is also a local events section, though this is more of a blank slate to be filled by your own telephone canvassing and doorknocking activities.
Policy round up
Each app has a useful section which provides an overview of the parties' policies in various areas, from animal welfare to transport. Here's the Labour version:
And on the Conservative app, which uses the wheel to scroll through policies:
Campaigning / donating
The Labour app is called 'iCampaign' so is naturally more geared towards campaigning with the local events and links to find your local MP and volunteer to help.
The Tory app has a donate link, though you have to either attempt to negotiate the payment screen on a website that has not been optimised for mobiles, or else call an 0845 number from the phone to donate.
There is also an option to call friends from your contacts list and grill them about their voting intention, before submitting this information along with their name and address. I'm sure my friends would really appreciate this...
Social media integration
The Conservative app contains links to the party's Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel, each of which takes users away from the app and opens these pages in the mobile browser.
Labour only links to its Twitter page, but it does open it up within the app, which is more useful in some ways, but it does mean you can't reply to messages or add any retweets.
I've covered most of the features of the Labour app, but the Conservative app has a trump card here I haven't mentioned up to now: a swing-o-meter.
Tilting the handset to the right (of course) will show the possible outcome on the map and in seat numbers, depending on the percentage swing to Conservative. Very neat.
Both apps have their flaws; the Conservatives' app has text so small that policies and news articles are harder to read than they need to be, while Labour should make more effort to keep the news on its app up to date.
Frankly, neither app is especially inspiring or useful to the average voter beyond spelling out where the parties stand on the major issues. Thanks to the 'wow factor' of the swing-o-meter, the Tory app just shades it.