Photo and feature photo by Johan Larsson

A quick look at the interface and quality of seven in-flight mag applications.

I can remember a time when I’d rather cut my toenails than read the drivel in those in-flight magazines. It was all business suits and bad chain hotels.

That was then. But nowadays in-flight magazines are doing a lot to rev up their content. On easyJet recently, I actually read the entirety of the onboard Traveller magazine, and was pretty impressed. Not to mention some of the solid articles on Irish travel and culture that are being put out by Aer Lingus’ in-flight rag, Cara.

The nice thing about in-flight magazines is that they’re free. Then again, who wants to carry those magazines around with you all day once you reach your destination?

Enter the iPad.

Magazine publishers are getting super savvy by making their in-flight magazines available on new tablet technologies. Many of the ‘zines are still free, and not only that, but they just look great on the shiny tablet interface.

AirTran GO Magazine

This app presents you with a slide list of current and previous issues of GO for download. The downloads are faster than some of the other apps, taking less than a minute, although they do take up space on the iPad.

Once downloaded, the magazine opens as a slide show of the actual print magazine, with the added feature of some embedded videos, which, although they are admittedly all ads, are very cool and offer a nod to what magazines will hopefully become via tablet technology. This app also offers bookmarking and a host of social sharing options.

b.there! Magazine – Brussels Airlines

The kinks don’t seem totally worked out with this app yet. When you first load the app, you are presented with a slideshow of current and previous issues to download, though the current issue’s cover fails to display. The magazine is shown in a fairly boring (but still pretty) set of slides of the actual print ‘zine. The app utilizes the same technology as AirTran’s GO app for bookmarking and social sharing.

UP Magazine – TAP Portugal

Compared to some of the other in-flight magazine apps, TAP Portugal’s UP app takes much longer (several minutes) to download from the app store. This app offers a slightly hipper take on the magazine-as-slideshow story, but still maintains the high-res slides of its ‘zine as the foundations for the app. Sadly, you are forced to sit through a 1-minute video in Portuguese for the app’s sponsor (which I’ll wager contributes to the app’s heinous download time) before you can see the ‘zine.

Baltic Outlook – airBaltic

This app downloaded from iTunes at lightning speed. It offers a basic download of the current and past editions, with a simple page-by-page view of the print magazine. The ‘zine is best viewed in vertical orientation, or else you have to scroll up and down each single page. Nothing fancy here, but the images are pretty.

Hemispheres – United/Continental

I have to admit, it took me a few minutes of fiddling to learn how to use this app. At first glance, it appears to be a basic slideshow of the print ‘zine, but it turns out to have a lot of cool interactive features, like embedded video and audio that offer previews of the films, CDs and media covered in the articles. I really like that! This is where tablet technology should be taking us, but I feel that the Hemispheres app has a little ways to go in making its options a bit more user-friendly and easy to figure out.

For example, the slideshow does not utilize the typical finger-touch slide, making it difficult to navigate through its visual paneling table-of-contents that appears at the bottom. Also, on pages with interactive features, a set of two pulsating circles appear that are supposed to help you navigate through the various options on the page, but end up getting confused with the offered interactive media (vids and audio) that also come up on the page.

Wingspan – ANA Virtual Airport

This app is not just a magazine app, although it does give you access to issues of Wingspan. When you first open the app, you are presented with an cartoonish, interactive airport that offers cute but slightly difficult-to-navigate options for visiting ANA’s Facebook page, checking out their flights or making reservations, watching videos and reading ANA company news (snooze!), as well as downloading the mag.

When you do open the magazine, you are presented with a very basic slideshow of the print ‘zine, so all-in-all, this was a big letdown.

Going Places – Malaysia Airlines

This app features the current issue of Going Places, along with the Select Entertainment Guide and Malaysia Airlines Guides, which you can download on an initial prompt screen. The download takes a couple of minutes and does take up space on your tablet, but can be deleted later. Looking through the magazine itself is a much more literal experience, with each page turned into a high-res image of the actual print ‘zine, which can be flipped through with a nice touch flipper.

Magazin – Lufthansa

This high-gloss app allows you to download current and past issues of Magazin. Though the downloads do take a few minutes (and take up space on your iPad), you can delete them once you’re finished reading. The issues consist of a series of high-res photo slides with overlapping text, small pop up info boxes and 360-view photographs that turn the magazine into something much more interactive than the standard slideshow of the print mag. Definitely the best of the list!

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