PostSecret iPhone app takes the secret-sharing movement mobile, but quality disappoints

Sep 19, 2011
Tech

Several months ago, PostSecret creator Frank Warren blogged that an app version of the site was on its way, so I put it on my list of apps to watch for. This week, PostSecret hit the App Store, and thousands of users snapped up the $2 app for iPhone and iPod Touch. After waiting so […]

Several months ago, PostSecret creator Frank Warren blogged that an app version of the site was on its way, so I put it on my list of apps to watch for. This week, PostSecret hit the App Store, and thousands of users snapped up the $2 app for iPhone and iPod Touch. After waiting so long for the app to come to fruition, my expectations were high. Perhaps too high.

With the legions of fans PostSecret already has, I don’t expect a less-than-positive review to have much of an impact on the app’s sales, but I was surprised at how buggy this initial release is. I experienced a significant number of crashes, and that coupled with the snail-pace loading time of both the map and individual secrets didn’t make for a pleasant user experience.

The PostSecret app is designed with user submissions in mind. Sharing a secret requires the user to select a photo, choose from three effects, and enter a 140-character secret in one of three typefaces. After positioning the text, users can opt to pin the secret with a nearby location. The app promises to never share any other location information to protect your anonymity. Users who submit secrets can opt to have the app discard them from history, or store them in a passcode-protected section if users want to monitor replies.

The location aspect allows users to find secrets nearby, but to do so, you’ll need to do a lot of pinch to zoom to find your immediate area — once the map actually loads anyway. An actual search function — keyword, city, ZIP, something — would make finding secrets easier, since the map and latest submission tab are the only methods of browsing secrets. The latest tab doesn’t work very smoothly, either. Once the items loaded, I found that I would run out of secrets to swipe through, and would have to refresh the page. It seems like a lot of secrets will go unread this way.

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Again, secrets themselves load slowly, but once you have a batch loaded, you can swipe through. Tap the screen to see sharing options for Facebook, Twitter and email, and a favorite option, which has its own dedicated tab. Tapping the screen also allows readers to reply to a submission with a secret of their own.

Others have posited that this app will kill the postcard part of PostSecret. I disagree, and I hope I’m right. Part of the appeal of PostSecret books and the weekly updated blog is the care Warren takes in selecting secrets to share with the world. Even in its few days of existence, it’s clear that the lack of vetting process in the PostSecret app will dilute the quality of submissions in favor of quantity. But I’m not sure that nosy human nature will care.

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