The iPhone has welcomed a new free app, and it belongs to the White House.
"Today, we're excited to announce the new White House App available for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. The White House App delivers dynamic content from WhiteHouse.gov to the palm of your hand," read the blog entry titled "WhiteHouse.gov: Anywhere" on WhiteHouse.gov, posted on Jan. 19 at 10:38 p.m. EST. Since there are several White House apps on iTunes -- priced from .99 cents to $1.99 -- be sure to look for the free app called "The White House". Users can watch Wednesday's President Obama's State of the Union speech on their iPhones.
This is the White House's first iPhone app, and the move was inevitable for a White House that's been consistently breaking new ground, from hosting online town hall meetings, offering live chats with top administration officials, to creating a robust YouTube channel, which hosts 481 videos, most of which are presidential speeches and events as well as press briefings by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Nearly a week later, Gibbs stars in a 43-second video explaining how the app works, which is quite possibly the first time the best-selling iPhone has been officially touted by a top administration official. (WATCH: The video is below.) The timing of the app's release was no coincidence, of course, near the eve of President Obama's one-year anniversary in office. For the record, Obama's WhiteHouse.gov officially went live at 12:01 p.m. EST on Jan. 21, 2009.
First released in June 2007, more than 21 million iPhones have been sold worldwide. Some 100,000 apps are available on Apple's iTune store.
Now, the most powerful office in the land is just a tap away in your iPhone.
Arguably the most innovative feature in in the White House app is live video streaming. Next week, for example, users can watch Obama's State of the Union address on their iPhone in real time.
This is the first step in the White House's mobile strategy, according to the White House's new media department, led by Macon Phillips, a veteran of the Obama campaign. Soon, the White House will launch mobile.WhiteHouse.gov., a mobile-ready version of the White House's virtual headquarters that is optimized for any Web-enabled mobile device. In other words, WhiteHouse.gov won't just be iPhone-centric. "Mobile web usage grew over 100% in the last year" in the U.S. and more worldwide, the official blog posting pointed out, linking to a recent TechCrunch article that noted Apple's dominance (the iPhone and the iPod Touch) in the mobile space, with a 65% market share in the U.S.
"We'll continue to look for new and emerging technologies to engage the American people and make information about the President and his administration easily available," the White House blog read.
So far, 335 reviews on iTunes have given the app an average rating of 3.5 stars. The highest is five. The most recent review, posted on Jan. 20, reads:
I realize this will be seen as a political tool but I am reviewing this for [its] functionality only. The first thing is the design is simple but the video and picture quality is exceptional. I was truly shocked at the quality and the stream speed...
Elsewhere online, the app has received some lukewarm reviews, tied to Obama's sinking popularity. A HuffPost commenter writes:
Does it promise one thing and deliver another like the real thing? Does it cower at the thought of actually standing on conviction?
Here's the 43-second video featuring Gibbs:
Check out other features of the White House app in the slideshow below, and rate your favorite.