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Appiphilia: iPhone finally gets an American Idol app

March 12, 2009 | 10:30 am

American Idol judges

From left, "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell suffer through days of cruel and unusual punishment to sift through the singing silt to mine for record gold. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

Whoever said that dreams don't come true just doesn't know the "American Idol" spirit.

I had a dream that one day iPhones and iPod Touches everywhere would have an application that tapped into the unstoppable and inspiring marketing monster that is AI. It's finally here.

An iPhone app seemed like a gimme since the show has a tie-in with AT&T (the device's sole wireless carrier) and sells the performance videos and songs through iTunes. (Ryan Seacrest -- or the Angel of Death, as Idolizer Richard Rushfield calls him -- did a ham-handed in-show commercial last season, but still no app.)

Although some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this, "Idol" worshipers had to wait only eight seasons (yeah, the iPhone wasn't around for all of them, but you know what I mean).

For those who don't get the allure, AI is like MLB is for music fans. And baseball fans had several apps of their own.

Finally, connected fans can have "Idol" hands -- and so far without the intrusion of Ryan, Randy, Kara, Paula and Simon.

American Idol iPhone appAmerican Idol Season 8 Exclusive ($1.99)

What it is: A little piece of "Idol" in your hands. It includes show updates and interviews, details on the top 11 (two were voted off last night), a "favorites" ranking system and video "confessions" from each contestant.

What sizzles: For "Idol" fans, the fact that it even exists kind of sizzles. My favorite feature is the exclusive video. Some are enlightening. Adam Lambert and Alexis Grace, for instance, really give a decent confessional. You get a sense of a real person and how they started in music. Others are less revealing and less comfortable. (It would have been too juicy for words and train-wreck riveting to have had Tatiana Del Toro in that confessional week after week. Sigh.)

The American Idol iPhone app features news, details and videos from the contestants

You can rank your favorites. And when they get dinked, soon after the show airs, they get marked off on the app.

The app links to the iTunes store so you can purchase songs from your favorite performances and download them directly to your device.

What fizzles: I really expected a bit more and thought it would be slicker.

The app cannot be used without a network connection.

The news portion is mostly current (though every item appears to be published at midnight), but the blog doesn't appear to be updated regularly. The last post that appears was from noon on March 6.

In my view, a better idea would have been aggregation: Pull in feeds from trusted blogs (maybe from former contestants, selected bloggers and actual news outlets) to get all the interesting and relevant chatter that fans would be interested in.

Also, where's the interactivity? Some of the fun of "Idol" is playing couch critic, debating who has more talent, stage presence, marketability and "relevance," and frankly engaging in community cattiness. That's no fun if it's you talking to your iPhone screen. Couldn't the developers incorporate something with the ranking? Who was right about this week's eliminations?

And since this is made by the folks with "exclusive" access to the contestants, the app could include a way for iPhone users to talk back to them, to ask questions to be addressed in these intimate confessional videos.

And how about providing some of the photos and videos from the "American Idol" site -- or at least a link to an iPhone-optimized page for each contestant?

Bottom line: While it's no Taylor Hicks of apps (dud), it's still not quite a Carrie Underwood (huge star). Ultimately, here's what I think the "American Idol" judges might say:

Randy: Dawg, I don't know.

Kara: You're relevant, but I really expected more from you.

Paula: I was so proud to see you out there. You looked good.

Simon: You just didn't do enough to win this competition. If you make it through to the next round, you'll need to do much better.

-- Michelle Maltais

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