Ever since it was released, the iPad has been compared to Star Trek’s PADD – the “personal access display device” used since the original series. The official iPad PADD app (from CBS Interactive) brings the PADD-iPad loop full circle by turning an iPad into a PADD simulator (US$5 in the App Store).
The interface of the app mimics the LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) interface that was used in The Next Generation. This is well done, with appropriate sound effects, Majel Barrett‘s voice, and good-looking graphics. The only complaint I have here is that the app doesn’t rotate to portrait (which PADDs in TNG certainly did). Note that while it looks authentic, this is mostly cosmetic – tapping an image of a cast member will take you to the cast index page, not the page specific to that character, for example, and many areas you would expect to be ‘hot’ do nothing at all.
The app provides access to the information available on StarTrek.com (aliens, locations, technology, and an episode guide). This is the most disappointing aspect of the app —one of the reasons that I purchased it was that I hoped it would be a useful reference source for answering [tag]star-trek[/tag] questions; unfortunately the information available is extremely limited and superficial. If the app was an interface to Memory Alpha or Wikipedia, it would contain a wealth of information, in an attractive interface (and would be much closer to the actual PADD). Although Memory Alpha’s content is only available under a non-commerical license (non-commerical and Star Trek merchandising are rather like matter/antimatter), I think Wikipedia’s content could have been included (supplementing the official StarTrek.com content) and would have significantly increased the amount of information available.
Personally, I would have preferred if the links went beyond Star Trek information, and if this was a LCARS interface to a true encyclopedia (Wikipedia would suffice). There are plenty of other Wikipedia browsers, but this one would hold a certain fan appeal. I doubt I would use it for most Wikipedia searches, but it would appropriately set the mood when doing Star Trek research.
The app description does say “The official Star Trek PADD app database does not contain all information within the Star Trek Universe. We will continue to update the database as information becomes available”. I’m hoping that they do mean the whole universe here (and not simply whatever is available on StarTrek.com), and I’m hopeful (but skeptical) that there will be regular updates that significantly increase the amount of content available.
I’m keeping the app installed on one of my iPads for now, but I suspect that I’ll rarely use it, and when I next purge unused apps, it’s likely to go. If you’re only interested in the cosmetic appeal, or if the shallow information available at StarTrek.com is all you’re interested in, then it might be worth $5 to you.