So what are the good wine apps out there? I’ll review some research done by one think tank and then outline my own.
In November 2009 a technology and wine industry think tank called vintank published a research report called Wine on the iPhone – Analysis on the Application Environment.
Although it may already be out of date (a year later there are now hundreds not the “dozens” of wine related apps referred to in the report) it still provides a good framework in which to assess mobile apps.
Note it takes a wine drinker point of view whereas I’m taking a wine retailer point of view. So the criteria will not necessarily overlap (price comparison jumps to mind!).
Here’s a summary of that criteria
Vintank’s most important factors were:
- Wine Reviews – number and quality
- Wine and Food Pairing – recommendations
- Wine Journal – by which they mean tasting notes or reviews
- Social Media Capabilities – sharing by facebook and twitter
- Point of Purchase Option – I read this to mean the ability to look up wine info and pricing in-store rather than mobile e-commerce
- Clean and Impressive User Interface (UI) – navigation and easy of use
- Innovation – a catch all for cool stuff
- Database Cleanliness – avoiding duplication of wines, probably due to misspellings or inconsistent naming conventions
Vintank named the following as their top 5 wine apps:
- Hello Vino – due to great point of purchase and UI
- Wine Prices – wine reviews and point of purchase
- Cor.kz Wine – wine reviews, wine journal, and point of purchase
- Velvet Vine Wine – wine journal, UI and innovation
- Drync Wine Pro – point of purchase
They used the criteria to rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5 with additional points based on:
- being free
- large number of users
- those that “deliver functionality and value” vs just content
I suggest you read the report for their commentary.
The iPhone wine apps
There are over 200 wine apps in the iPhone App Store! So apologies if I’ve missed yours. These are the ones I’ve downloaded:
- Hello Vino
- Wine by the Bar
- Wine Events
- Wine Notes
I have an iPhone 3G and luv it 🙂 . On the other hand I didn’t love all these apps.
Wine Apps Reviews
Here are my thoughts on the apps. I had high hopes for the Wine.com one…
These guys are pretty good. They not only have a good app, they also have a good affiliate program which means other non wine store apps often link to their store.
The user interface is excellent, with great navigation and search capabilities. They have ratings, reviews, and even allow you to add your own ratings, notes, and wishlists – or “wine journal” in vintank parlance.
They don’t have a sharing process (unless you include by email). They do checkout very well with three purchase processes:
- be called by wine.com customer service
- email yourself (so you can complete it later on a PC)
- go to the wine.com mobile browser store.
Well thought through. Naturally I chose option 3.
Then everything went wrong.
The shopping cart just didn’t work, I just got gobbledygook on my phone screen. Perhaps that’s due to my location or they were having a “bad hair day” (er, nope, I rechecked the following morning).
I also don’t believe you should leave the app to complete a purchase. What happens is the app appears to close down as the iPhone Safari browser opens the mobile website (or normal website!). An unsettling and cumbersome experience.
So close – but no banana. Need to fix that.
The rest of the apps I tried are usually not from wine stores. So they are never going to be perfect from a retailer’s perspective as they do not complete the purchase but most are very good nonetheless.
Arguably the top wine app out there for a wine drinker.
A number of excellent ways to search for wines that seem to end with a varietal page plus some recommended wines (though only 3, I’d have more than that). Integrates well with facebook and twitter to help encourage sharing.
It also integrates with some good wine blogs to provide some articles, and snooth for wine data.
It has sometimes has a wine.com Buy button that links to the relevant wine.com page. This suffered the same problem as when I tried to purchase from wine.com. But at least the Hello Vino app remained open and the wine.com website was opened inside it – a much smoother experience.
It also sometimes has links to wine stores and winery websites. However these links open in a web browser.
Once you get past the annoying sign in page (why can’t this be optional?), this is actually a very good app and is giving Hello Vino a run for their money.
It has great search and navigation and of course all the snooth community wine reviews and ratings. The added benefit, vs Hello Vino, are the website merchant partner stores. This ties nicely into geolocation allowing you to find (using iPhone GPS functionality) the nearest stores by listing, or by google map.
When you want to purchase it falls back on providing a website address for the retailer. When you click on this it takes you to the retailer’s website by browser – though within the app like Hello Vino not wine.com. Purchase is then dependent on how good the retailer’s mobile site, or normal website, is on a mobile phone.
Snooth also has a paid version that allows you use image search. So you take a photo of a label and then the software matches it with a snooth website listing. Very cool idea and a step up on QR codes if it works well.
==== Sidenote ====
An insight from reviewing these apps is that your store could be referred to by external mobile applications so, regardless of whether you have an app, you will need to have a good mobile website. This almost certainly won’t be your normal website – see this post re app vs site.
I like the “instant” search part of this app – in other words it tries to give you options as you type which is great for a small touch typepad.
Each listing provides the usual wine data plus reviews and ratings from CellarTracker.com, WineAccess, Wine.com, Wine Library (video) and others. Each review has a subtle link that opens externally from the app in the mobile browser to the relevant website.
It has an excellent Featured, Most Popular and Top Wanted; and great share functionality via twitter, facebook and email.
It also has good wine journalling with a Drank, Own Want section. A useful feature might be “Quick Notes”. This allows you to save a note when you don’t have an internet connection and upload it when you’re back online.
When you click on a listing it brings up the Retail average prices and Auction average prices. It lists the stores but there is no link to them.
It also has ratings and reviews from International Wine Cellar and sometimes others.
A useful price checking or comparison tool for a consumer.
I also looked at Wine By the Bar, Cor.kz, Wine Events and Wine Notes. Each had some interesting points around barcode scanners (using the camera feature), general wine info “Pedias“, wine tasting events and good ways of taking wine tasting notes.
Who’s the best?
It should have been wine.com as they were the only wine retailer. The rest were essentially content publishers, store locators and note recorders.
Wine.com should have had a shopping cart inside the app, that actually worked! They do everything very well up to that point – then fail miserably.
Hello Vino, Drync Wine and Snooth are all excellent.
Hello Vino I really liked despite the limited number of wines it recommended. It also linked to wine.com which failed – and failed inside the app so it looked like Hello Vino’s fault (though it wasn’t). A great user interface and integration with social media.
Drync Wine and Snooth were also excellent but both opened wine stores in an external browser.
For every app reviewed and every time I clicked on a link to another company’s web page, the web page was not optimized for mobile. So the user experience flounders at the purchase stage. Not the app developers’ fault but they may need to educate their retail partners to improve the user experience.
Until someone can offer an end to end service I ain’t pickin’ anyone
There you go app developers – the challenge is out!
Snooth or wine-searcher should be in a good position to do this with their extensive database of wines and retail partners. Wine-searcher currently let’s others use their data by opening an interface to their system (“API”). Maybe it’s time they created their own app? Their large Facebook following would be keen users I imagine.
What’s your thoughts? Have I missed a particularly good wine app? Have I been unfair in my analysis? Do you plain disagree? Feel free to comment below.