Like most days of my life I am running late; a mixture of a lot on my plate and laziness are usually the contributing factors for these situations I find myself in. People are usually pretty forgiving but trains, not so much. They have a set schedule that only certain world leaders and religious icons can subvert and as much as I would like to believe I count as one of their ranks, I know that damned train is going to leave without me if I do not pack light and start running for it. I was in the middle of this mad dash to get the hell out of San Francisco when a good friend hit me up over AIM on my phone.
I purchased an iPhone several years ago hoping that it would help me wrangle in my schedule and provide seamless integration between my physical life and digital life. On the way to the train station, my iPhone has betrayed me. Murder most foul on the 31 bus.
Filip: Hey, want to write a review for CAN?
I know you liek (sic) comics so you may like this
It’s not available in the UK
I haven’t seen this guy in years, he lives in the UK and I make a point to stay on his couch for free whenever I am there. We have known each other for over a decade but have only met in person 4 or maybe 5 times, always in the UK and I always end up sleeping on his couch. He has never once visited me in the San Francisco, let alone the US. I also made the mistake of having him purchase and send me some Tintin DVD’s that were only available in the UK. Damn bastard! He knew he had me. My couch surfing / comic reading ways have caught up to me on this one.
Me: I’ll have to do it from my phone, I’m on the road
God damn it, I still don’t even know why I said yes.
Me: How many words?
Filip: 400 words or so, not a lot
Me: Piece of cake
I lied. My schedule is actually pretty brutal for the next couple of days and I knew that I writing a review for an app would not be easy for me, especially a review in fewer than 400 words; brevity has never been one of my strong suits. Filip knows this so I can only assume he is ok with it.
Well dear reader, if you are still reading I can confirm that we are already over 400 words and so far I have only hinted at what app I am reviewing. I am also well over the 12 hour deadline he imposed on me, again, I can only assume Filip would know it would come to this.
I get off of AIM with Filip and immediately download Panelfly from the App store. The app is pretty small, 842 KB to be exact, so it downloaded rather quickly over the AT&T 3G network. The app store description says, Panelfly is an all encompassing comic resource, offering users an inline mobile store, complete library functionality, sequential panel navigation, bookmarking capabilities and a unique page index menu. I’m excited for this app; it has been a long time since I have read anything other than a graphic novel. I used to be obsessed with Marvel comics, X-Men, X-Factor, and Spiderman etc. It was the usual teenage comic experience, I grew up and the comics moved out. It wasn’t really either of our faults, we just grew apart over time.
I wanted to catch up with these old friends, but unfortunately they cannot be found in the Panelfly store. Maybe one day they will show up and we can reconnect, but it just wasn’t in the stars for today. Instead I found titles Rex Libris, Fantastic Life, and The Hookah Girl. I am sure they are great comics in their own right, but I have never heard of them, that is not saying much though, like I said I have been out of the game for a long time.
I was not called in to review comics though; I was called in to review the app. The previously mentioned comics, like most comics in the store cost money ($.99 – $9.99) and not feeling like paying more for a job I am not getting paid for I decided not to purchase any comics. That is why I was ecstatic when I found the Panelfly Free Comics section. The section is filled with a lot of old pulp adventure and horror comics. Good fun if you are into it. I decided on two that I have never heard of before; Amazing Man because that was the nickname an old girlfriend had for me and, Skeleton Hand a nickname I had for an old girlfriend. Its odd how things like that always seem to come back and haunt you, like an old friend hitting you up to work for them for free.
The comics are pretty large files; at least I assume they are since they took awhile to download over the 3G network, although I assume it would be much faster under a Wi-Fi connection. In the mean time the bus I was on pulled up to the closest stop to the train station. I left the app running, gathered my bags and started an adrenaline filled sprint for my train.
20 minutes later I was comfortably sitting at my own table on a train heading East from San Francisco. Remembering that I left my phone downloading a comic I excitedly retrieved my phone from my pocket and pulled up the library; Amazing Man was waiting for me, but first I had to find it. Luckily Panelfly has a slick user interface. The comic selection screen uses images from the cover of each comic as part of the selection process. It looks really professional and works even better.
Once you select a comic it loads up the first page, clicking on the right third of the screen flips the comic a page forward and the left third flips it to the previous page. Tapping the center brings up various tools; bookmark, index, issue number and page number. This is very similar to e-book readers on the iPhone, so while this is not a revolutionary layout it has withstood the test of time and user feedback. Double tapping on a section of the page will zoom in on the cell to make it easier to read and from there you can just scroll around the page using your finger. The app does use auto-rotate if you want to read your comics on a wider screen, but I do not understand why anyone would want to do that since comics naturally fit the horizontal view. So far I have been unable to find a solution to auto-rotate as there is no settings section that I have been able to find. So if you like to read in bed while lying on your side, a habit I am unwilling to confirm or deny about myself, beware because you will be in auto-rotate hell.
The app itself is solid. It works incredibly well and looks as sexy as the sexiest iPhone application you can think of. Will I use it often? Not sure. I like my graphic novels, and I like flipping the pages and looking at the art. I like what having graphic novels on my bookshelf says about me as they sit there next to Crime and Punishment or a book of W.B. Yeats poetry, that I read smart books but I also like to party. I have no problem reading e-books because I do not collect books. Comics are more than just words and there are many comics that are worth keeping around to admire at a later date. If Panelfly had the monthly comics that I used to read as a kid I would have no problem paying for them if I was not planning on adding them to some sort of collection. As I see it now most of the comics available on the Panelfly service are worthy to have on your bookshelf. Putting my iPhone on my bookshelf just does’t seem to have the same effect.
Note by Filip: An exciting feature for artists to take part (currently unavailable) is called MyFly. Whilst we are not sure what it will include we can only expect to become some form of distribution platform where artists can show off their work. Only time will tell. You can get more information and full list of comics available on panelfly.com
Developer: Panelfly, Inc
Posted on: 18/09/2009
Posted in: iPhone