According to Apple.com, there are over 250,000 active iPhone applications available for download at their App Store. What are some of the more interesting and useful apps related to politics?
I recently did a search of the App Store using a number of search words to see what I could find. The terms I used were politics, political, conservative, Republican, GOP, libertarian, voting, and election (sorry, I didn’t search liberal, leftist, or Democratic—I’m not a masochist.)
My search criteria were as follows. For budgetary reasons (readers’ and my own), I limited my search to free apps, though I realize that cooler stuff can often be had for a price. Many non-free apps do have limited free versions as well. For quality control, I limited my search to apps with an average user rating of at least 3.0 (out of 5.0) stars. Finally, for reliability, I limited my search to apps with at least 10 user ratings.
After eliminating a few apps that were irrelevant to politics, I experimented with what was left. Here are some of my findings (note: star rating and number of user ratings are included in parentheses after each app name):
1. NYTimes (4.0, 12497)
This one hardly needs any introduction. Love it or hate it, the New York Times app offers a clean, quickly-loading display and a simple, attractive layout of all the paper’s major headlines and thumbnail photos. Personally, I read the Times every day—if only to know what the enemy is up to.
2. WA State Election (5.0, 25)
This one is obviously relevant only for Washington State, but I bet that won’t be the case two years from now when Obama’s up for reelection. (Sadly, there are no versions of this app yet available for any of the other 56 states.) WA State Election’s main menu allows you to choose from Measures (i.e., referenda), Federal Offices (i.e., Senators and Representatives), Judicial Offices, and Legislative Offices (i.e., state legislators.) You get up-to-the-minute vote counts and percentages—important in this era of close and contested elections and recounts, all of which Washington has experienced in recent years (maybe that’s why someone developed the app for Washington). There’s a graph display, for example, that shows me Senator Patty Murray won reelection over challenger Dino Rossi by a margin so small the differences between bars is about the thickness of a hair on my screen, no doubt the result of a bag of absentee ballots found down by the river.
3. Drudge Report Free (4.0, 1836)
There are a number of Drudge apps out there, and like most of the others, this one allows you to look at either Headlines, Column 1, Column 2, or Column 3. One problem with the Drudge Report—both the online and iPhone versions—is that it’s sometimes a bit slow. This app gets around that by offering you the option of downloading articles via Optimized Version (faster), Original Version, or Safari.
4. Yes We Camera (3.0, 4599)
Strictly for the Obama voters reading this site (or looking at the pictures.) Take a snapshot of yourself and watch it transformed into a Soviet propaganda-style, red-and-blue-tinted, Shepard Fairey-copyrighted, Hopey-Change poster. I’m virtually unrecognizable in the shot I took below—which is just as well. This may be another app that’s old news, but I certainly didn’t jump on the bandwagon to use it when it first came out. Now I’d like to see a variation on this app that allows users to type in their own catchword—e.g., ‘NOPE’—to appear as a caption.
5. World’s Smallest Political Quiz (3.5, 412)
This popular and widely used quiz asks you your positions on 10 questions on ‘Personal Issues’ such as free speech, the draft, and drug legalization, and ‘Economic Issues’ such as corporate welfare, Social Security, and taxes. Then it displays your political leanings on a two-dimensional diamond with quadrants labeled Libertarian, Right/Conservative, Left/Liberal, and Statist/Big Government, as well as a Centrist section. Clicking each quadrant gives you a detailed definition of what people with that political affiliation tend to believe. (I ended up on the extreme edge of the Libertarian sector.) My only problem with this classic quiz is that it leaves out a third important domain—‘Military/Law Enforcement/Foreign Policy Issues’—on which many capital-L Libertarians sadly tend to be pacifist or isolationist.