Can there be too much of a good thing? Well, judging form the number of political mobile apps being developed, one can easily be excused for answering yes. A quick search on the App Store and Google Play for “politics” reveals hundreds of apps, many of which are focused on the upcoming election.
While some of the apps are tailored towards the election, there are others whose reach is more evergreen. Developers are hoping to boost the popularity of these evergreen apps during election time but still keep users coming back even after the election, user retention being a particular challenging — albeit defining — quality of a mobile app.
As an average Joe looking to keep an eye on the election, app selection can be somewhat difficult. As such, we set some criteria: functionality, privacy, and, with those qualities in mind, overall price. Collectively, these serve to narrow the playing field and provide the highest quality at the lowest cost.
RNC and DNC Apps
The RNC Mobile Guide, created by TBO.COM for the Republican National Convention (RNC), provides a guide to things to do and see during the convention, including dining options, theme parks, and nightlife. It also serves as a source of the latest news, weather, and traffic information related to the event. As such, its oriented toward event attendees, not those watching from a distance.
For the Democratic National Convention (DNC), check out Charlotte DNC 2012 from the Charlotte Observer. The DNC 2012 app provides information similar to the TBO.com app, albeit for a different political camp. Mobile app developers at AT&T Services have also made a contribution to the coverage of the DNC with DNC 2012, which provides live streaming, real-time blogs, and press releases, as well as a tool for personalizing the Charlotte experience.
The Convention Floor Pass by CNN and Time is one of the apps that offers the best coverage of both national conventions. The app from these two major media outlets provides users 24/7 breaking news, updates, and alerts, as well as daily analysis and exclusive access to CNN-Time polls, photos, and commentary. Users of Convention Floor Pass also get exclusive early access to journalists from both outlets on the ground at both events.
The Convention Floor Pass is our favorite in this group. The app is not only beneficial during the actual conventions but continues to enable users access to timely updates throughout the course of the campaign period, all the way to Election Day.
Campaign Fact-Checking Apps
Curious about who is paying for certain political television ads, and thereby, as private organizations, supporting certain candidates? The Sunlight Foundation’s mobile app, Ad Hawk, acts in a Shazam-like manner to provide the utmost clarity of political leanings. The app listens to campaigns, as well as Super PAC and issue-specific ads, then lists information about who placed the ads, their campaign finance profile, and other related information. A user only needs to turn on Ad Hawk and allow it to ‘hear’ the ad, and it will scour its database for background information. This provides users plenty of power as they can monitor the sources of a candidate’s funds and call the candidate out on questionable funding sources such as individuals and institutions linked to crime, corruption, or immoral activity. Such clarity also provides an understanding of where ad content is sourced.
A similar app is SuperPACApp, which operates much the same as Ad Hawk but has some additional features. It allows the user to rate the ad while understanding who and how much money is behind the ad, what claims the ad is making, and whether those claims are based on facts. It enables the users to bring some transparency to the presidential campaign.
Polifact enables users to counter-check claims made by presidential candidates. These claims are then rated on a scale that includes true, half-true, false, and “pants on fire”. In addition to this, users of the Polifact app can view recently-rated claims by category, such as healthcare, taxes, or a politician’s name. User of this app can continue to track the progress of campaign promises after the election to see if the winner follows through once in office.
The creators of Polifact take the trophy in this category. This is because it has all the features that Ad Hawk and SuperPACApp have, while also providing post-election follow-up. This is very useful as it can be a tool to keep elected officials in check, ensuring that keep their campaign promises.
Apps for Expressing Your Allegiance
Both Democrats and Republicans have apps that cater specifically to their political affiliations. Republican can own use Proud Republican to tune-in to talk radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage, thereby keeping up-to-date with all things Republican. The app also has social features where users can voice their opinion and share their views. In addition, users can check political profiles of senators, members of Congress, and currently enacted bills.
Similarly, Democrats have the Proud Democrat. This app’s features include: a Democrat image to set as the background wallpaper for phones, Twitter capabilities, and display of the total number of downloads the app has received. Users of the Proud Democrat can also follow the numbers game between this app and the Proud Republican app, seeing which is in the leading in number of downloads.
The flip side of all this is that the Proud Republican app will set buyers back $2.99, while the Proud Democrat will cost users $0.99. Guess there is a cost to patriotism, no matter which party is yours, but at $0.99, the Democrat take this round of app battle. Charging over a dollar for a political app is a little steep, especially in this economy and given that fact that most apps are in fact available to users free of charge.
Apps with Social Network Connections
Facebook and CNN partnered to create I’m Voting, which allows Facebook users to inform their friends of voting selections and the political issues they find most important. I’m Voting provides users with the option of either displaying their political affiliations openly or keeping them anonymously.
Xbox players have not been left behind in all this innovation. Microsoft has developed Election 2012 on Xbox Live, which features live feeds of the Republican and Democratic conventions, presidential-debates, and election-night coverage. The app also offers users access to live daily polls. This is a powerful avenue given that 40-percent of Xbox Live users are swing voters not committed to a presidential candidate, according to research for Microsoft conducted by StrategyOne. Facebook and CNN are huge players in their own right, and their partnership on this without a doubt has all the markings of a great success story.
Of the hundreds out, these are the apps we believe will be most visible this election period. As with all apps, though, users should pick all those that provide service that is cost-efficient, convenient, and timely — not to mention highly informative, transparent, and, in the spirit of the industry, disruptive.