Google has rather quietly launched a catalog app for the iPad. After it’s last ill-fated attempt to digitize catalogs bit the dust two and a half years ago, the new tablet app (coming to Android devices soon) seems to be the right move at the right time. Even if you don’t enjoy shopping – or feel, like Engadget, that catalogs are best suited for starting fires in the fireplace (fair enough) – the new app has relevance. This is what retail and magazines should be like on a tablet. Digital periodicals have had a rough road so far, but there’s still a lot of potential in the medium, and if you add in an easier way to make money, the business should get a boost. The click-to-buy function gets at that powerful instant gratification impulse, and by couching it in an experience that’s fun, interactive, and playful, catalogs and publications should have an easier time drawing consumers in.
From a purely personal and frivolous standpoint, I love the new Google app. You can page through a range of catalogs with a swipe of the finger, zoom in on images, click to purchase, save favorites to a single location from different stores, share stuff with friends, and even create your own collages pairing together items from all over the place. It’s way cooler than the analog alternative, and much easier than opening up multiple windows on your PC to compare products. There are still a limited number of catalogs available in the app, but that will surely change. I expect we’ll see a big jump before the holiday shopping season. In the meantime, I’m happy with what I can get. It’s about time the tablet shopping experience got a makeover.