Android is the world’s most popular operating system, but that does not mean that it s always the first target for mobile developers. For years, for example, Instagram abstained from producing an Android version. And the excellent if pricey set of planning apps from the Omni Group, the Mac roots of which extend back to NeXT development, have their mobile counterparts only on iOS. But even more recently, developers of content-focused apps that run the gamut from the serious to the superficial have launched exclusively on iOS despite having no need for the kind of processing and graphics performance that Apple often promotes as an advantage for developers.
With the proliferation of smart speakers — including some from Google itself — the race for audio beyond music services carrying substantially the same catalogs has picked up. AudM is a new app backed by The Atlantic and Wired that curates long-form journalism read by professional narrators and tailors it to your interests and commute. Narrations tend to run from about 18 minutes to a bit over an hour — with options to shorten those times by speeding up the playback pace as well as download recordings for offline playback on, say, a train commute. However, while the library is constantly refreshed, many of the stories are from months ago. (It launched in July.)
The idea of apps offering professionally narrated topical content isn’t new. Cross-platform app Otto Radio picked up the baton after Umano was acquired and shuttered. But the focus on “longreads” that command significantly more minutes of one’s time can mean all the difference in choosing whether to read it or skip it. There’s nothing that seems particularly challenging about bringing AudM to Android; the texts of articles are synced to playback. However, the app’s mandatory subscription model ($7 per month) has likely led the developers to focus on iOS’s generally more affluent user base.
If there could be a media experience more polar to AudM, which brims with solemn screeds on politics, economics, and other weighty elements of the human condition, it would be HQ Trivia, a live video game show from the creators of Vine. Unlike the previous app phenomenon, Trivia Crack, HQ shows are scheduled at a specific time, require near-instant reaction, and pay out real money.
Most of the app’s screen is occupied by the bearded comedian host and avid reader (NSFW link) Scott Rogowsky in front of an animated background; his brand of patter will be familiar to fans of the originally CD-ROM-based game show You Don’t Know Jack. Shows consist of 12 progressively difficult questions that must be answered in a few seconds, too little time to research them on the web. The results of how the audience answered are presented in real time. Getting one wrong results in being eliminated although it is possible to buy extra lives or simply watch the rest of the show without participating. If all this weren’t frivolous enough, a scrolling list of commentary typically consisting of empty exclamations runs alongside the show.
Unlike AudM, HQ Trivia just launched a few weeks ago and there is little about its design or business model beyond generally better audience monetization rates that would seem to favor iOS. In fact, it’s youthful appeal might skew more toward less expensive handsets that would favor Android. For now, though, what some have heralded as the future of game shows — as well as AudM’s new twist on articles from storied media brands — can be found only on Apple devices.