Do you still read and order things from a catalog? Try the new iPad app from Google called Google Catalogs and save a few trees. Just a few days ago a news story cited the U.S. Postal Service is planning 120,000 layoffs by 2015. Netflix is pushing for stream only with its latest rate hike, and newspapers are pumping out digital news via iPad apps on a daily basis. Next up? Catalogs, and Google is right in the middle of the mad rush to gain the lead in the digital catalog marketshare. Actually Google already had a Catalog service online for some time which was shut down in 2009, but today they have brought the service back only for mobile users with the new Google Catalogs iPad app.
Once you go into a catalog, Google starts to download its pages. Flip left and right to view the pages or navigate quickly by dragging the slider on the bottom of the screen. Products are labeled with a tag icon over them. Tap to bring up the detail page where you see the price, images, and a link to buy the product on the company’s respective website. So for fulfillment the app basically opens an inline Safari browser to the product page on that seller’s site. If you like thumbnails, you can hit the gallery icon and browse the pages of the catalog as small screenshots.
Speed and response times are really well done in the app and navigation around the Catalogs and the app itself feels very smooth and responsive. The only time you’ll have to wait at all is when you’re downloading a new catalog. Whether you’re just in the mood for checking out the latest fashion trends, or want to shop for products from the comfort of your iPad, Google Catalogs has you covered. Finding and perusing through other user’s collages can be delightful as well.
Using the app doesn’t require logging into your Google account, although you gain a few advantages when you do. After signing in you can save your favorite products and catalog pages, get push notifications when new issues of catalogs are released, and even create collages from your favorite items. After you sign in, you seem to get access to more choices because you’re shown a list of all the catalogs that Google has, and given the option to view them if you add them to your favorites.
The Catalogs app is split into 4 tabs: Featured, Catalogs, Favorites and Collages. Featured is a selling point for top or advertised partners. The Catalogs tab is where you can dig around a categorized list of selling shops and view their catalogs sorted by month.
Favorites area is great for saving your most used catalogs once you’ve logged into your Google Account. You can also favorite pages of any catalog or even a single product in a page of a catalog. The Favorites tab has filters so you can limit your view to just Catalogs, Pages, or Products you’ve saved. Favorites can be easily removed by tapping the Edit button.
The collages section comes pre-loaded with 3 sets of public collages: Featured, Most Viewed and Just In. Tap the + button to add your own custom collages. You can drag in products and pages you’ve favorited, add in text tiltes for descriptions, and pick a visual theme. Make your collage public or private and share it with friends via email. This could be a fun way to shop for someone or better yet ask for products you may wish to have bought for you!
Finally, the Google Catalogs app has a full text search feature, as you would expect from Google. The search works quite accurately and the results not only bring up the exact page where the keywords is mentioned but the catalog also highlights the item in blue so you know which product matches your search.
For now, the app has partnered with the major sellers in the catalog business, so if you’re a brand name enthusiast, you’ll probably find your favorite in the list. The launch partners includes companies like Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Alloy, Anthropologie, Athleta, Bare Escentuals, Bare Necessities, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Boden, Brooks Brothers, CB2, Create&Barrel, Delia’s, Eddie Bauer, Fossil, Free People, Gump’s, Horchow, L.L. Bean, The Land of Nod, Lands’ End, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Pottery Barn, Red Envelope, Ross+Simons, Ralph Lauren Rugby, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sundance, Tea, Ugg, Venus, and West Elm.
Here are some cons for the app that I’ve founds so far. The app crashed on me once and I’m not sure why exactly. This would not have been good if say I was in the process of ordering something in the inline web browser. The icon for the app looks very dry and could use some life to make it match its fashion conscience content. Although there are a lot of catalogs already, there could be a lot more added. You won’t find any “male” targeted catalogs right now, so if you’re trying to browse the latest gear from ThinkGeek, you’re out of luck. There is also no catalogs for major electronics and appliance stores such as Sears, or Best Buy. We’re guessing more companies will be signing up soon. There is a form you can submit to get your company’s catalog added on Google Catalogs, once it is approved by the Google editorial team. Browsing for catalogs is very limited right now, since you can only find things by category. It would be nice to have an alphabetical list of all catalogs. You can however search for catalog names by keyword. Streamlining the shopping step would be great. If Google can avoid sending users to the company’s website to place an order, this app would become an instant hit with many users. It would also be good if the app sent you push notifications about sales, special events and promos going on at your favorite stores. Finally, an iPhone app would really be beneficial since more people have a 3G plan there, and would be likely to order things while away from their larger screen devices.
Here is a video demo of the Google Catalogs app on the iPhone
This 3rd Party App is available at the Apple iTunes AppStore. Browse the full list of all AppStore apps filed under the AppStore category.
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