Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Things that suck about Marvel Unlimited's Android app

UPDATE: The night after I posted this there was a storm that knocked out my power and Internet. Below I tell you that Marvel Unlimited's Android app sucks because it limits you to six offline comics. That night I couldn't access a single one. After my power and internet were restored I decided to go back to the app. Now I get an error that won't even let me launch it. Like I say below, it's a huge pain in the ass.

Marvel Unlimited really is the Netflix of Marvel comics. So far I've averaged more time per day using MU than I've ever used Netflix in a single day. Just to be clear (because there's a lot of confusion about this), Marvel employs the term "Unlimited" the way cellular phone providers and cable services do—it's just a marketing word now, all pillow talk. Some people think that, for ten dollars a month, you're going to get all the new comics delivered directly to your tablet. You're not. I'm not sure if you've looked at the price tag on a modern comic lately, but there's no way Marvel is going to let you have all the stuff they release each week for a measly $60/year.

or WHAT goddamn it?!

This is where the comparison to Netflix makes the most sense: if you want brand new stuff you're going to have to pay for it separately. With a few exceptions, I'm not the biggest fan of modern comics anyway. If you're anything like me the service will pay for itself in as little as a day. I'm a guy who gets sick of things pretty quickly. Yet I've gotten hours of enjoyment from MU.

Don't sign up just yet, however. The Android app for Marvel Unlimited is bad. And I mean really, really bad. If you're used to reading comics on Comixology and CBreaders like ComicRack, you're going to get frustrated quickly. Even if you haven't been spoiled by the slickness of these standards you're prone to toss your tablet at the window anyway. As usual, developers decided to focus on the Apple version while throwing Android's together with little to no thought put into it.

I want to point out that the app, if the comments on Play are any indication, is actually improving. It apparently went from diarrhea to slightly solid turds, but hopefully the trend will continue. As it is, the MU app is the shittiest app I actually use. For all the downfalls, there just isn't a legitimate deal anywhere else quite as good as Marvel Unlimited.

Things that suck about the Marvel Unlimited app:

1. Zoom sucks. They didn't have zoom at all to begin with. When you spread your fingers on the screen you expect the interface to know that's the position where you want to zoom. The MU app doesn't know this. It always zooms to the center of the comic regardless of where your fingers are placed. Then you have to then drag your finger across the screen (always more than once) to find the rough location of what you were looking for in the first place. I've spent a lifetime training myself not to look at panels ahead of the one I'm on (a huge accomplishment for an impatient child, mind you) and this kind of defeats that training.

2. Resolution sucks. Once you zoom in to a detail you can't quite make out, you'll wonder why you tried to zoom at all. 

3. The MU app doesn't care if your tablet's rotation is locked, it'll rotate all damn day until the cows come home. When I'm reading in bed, I do a lot of turning, which inevitably makes the app rotate the page. This normally wouldn't be such a big deal if A) I could turn off the feature in the app's settings and B) the view would return to portrait mode. See, once the app decides to go widescreen it ain't going back. I used to have to back out of the app altogether, reload the comic, and flip through the pages again to find where I left off. That's a major pain in the ass. I found that if you return the tablet to its upright position, go back a page and go forward again, the problem corrects itself. This "solution" is still a pain in the ass, just not as major. Which reminds me...

4. No bookmarks. If you leave the comic you're reading for any reason, you had better leave the app running in the background. Otherwise it doesn't give a shit about continuity and it'll make you hunt for where you left off. That's a major oversight in design.

5. Page turning isn't as responsive as it should be. The only exception is when you accidentally turn the page. Then it seems as if it's trying to set a world record.

6. Entire word balloons don't load. So far, reloading the comic does not fix this issue. I assume this means MU isn't just sending us simple JPEG scans, but two or more layers per each image. But if you think it's easy reading a comic without a word balloon you're crazy. Although it's kind of neat to see the art unblocked, more than half the time that this happens you can't read the black lettering because there isn't any white there to contrast it. Good luck trying to figure out who's saying what, too. I checked: I don't have the same problem with disappearing balloons when I'm reading on the desktop. But imagine being on a long bus ride with no internet access and finding the six comics you chose for offline viewing are unreadable. Worse, those six comics are a tight run so you don't want to read the next one in line until you can read the first one. Oh yeah, and...

7. The limit of six comics (again, "Unlimited" is just a buzz word these days) for offline reading was obviously implemented by someone who doesn't use the service, never would use the service, and doesn't give a shit about anyone who does. I can connect my tablet to the internet when I'm on the prowl in town, sure, but it's a pain in the ass and I usually choose not to do it. But my job takes me out of town weekly and podunks aren't exactly known for amazing cellular reception anyway.

8. Lack of settings. Going back to point 3, I really wanted to turn rotate off. No problem, I thought. I'll just check the settings. Funny thing about that: there aren't any.

9. The app really looks like something designed by an amateur. The online desktop version looks pretty shitty, too.

10. Smart panel view isn't nearly as smart as Comixology.

I have a few issues with the service itself, too. As seen in the picture near the top of this post, there are frequent bugs here and there. There are also gaps in series continuity that'll leave you scratching your head. For instance, if you want to read Wolverine's first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180, no problem. But if you want to read the conclusion in #181 then you're shit out of luck 'cause it ain't there.

But back to the tune I was singing when I began this post: I love the service. I'm reading stuff I never thought I'd get to read and sometimes stuff I never thought I wanted to read. Bugs and shitty apps aside, it is a wonderfully convenient service. In my mind, it's easily worth the price. I read a lot more than ten dollars worth of stuff in the first night alone.

7 comments:

  1. Still no settings. Still no way to turn off rotation. I'm embarrassed for whoever made the app and even more embarrassed for marvel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm dealing with this too... This is seriously make or break for me. I am not paying for this service with such a glaring problem.

      I emailed them, I got a generic response which didn't even seem like I was being responded to, about how they are fixing things (but no mention about my problem). Then I tried again and got NO response... Just tweeted @MarvelSupport.. we'll see how this goes.

      Delete
    2. I cancelled my service, which sucks because the last five comics I bought on Comixology are currently available on Marvel Unlimited. Still, I'm not going back until the app shows major improvement. It's like paying for Netflix, but not being able to view your movies on anything but a desktop computer.

      Delete
  2. The auto rotate not locking really messes with reading in bed, I agree. I have two things to add to this list:
    1. Publication dates are not always easily visible. I like to read my comics in order of release (many different titles at a time), and having to go from menu to menu just to find the date is annoying.
    1.5. On the same page, I would love the ability to sort the offline reads so I know what order to read them in while I don't have access to the internet.
    2. The search feature is horrible. "Spiderman" won't find comics entitled "spider-man", and both exist. " GLA" won't find "G.L.A.", and the search matches exactly starting at the first word, meaning " x-men" won't find "uncanny x-men".

    Having said all that, I agree with the original poster that in the first week I already read enough comics that the entire year was worth paying for. Let's just hope for more updates.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The best thing about Android SDK is that it does not require any resources or any kind of investment.
    showboxdownloadsapp.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. I heard that the the iPad mini 5 will sport a 7000-series aluminum chassis which is different to the one's previously used. The device will feature 8-megapixles camera in the rear and a 1.2-megapixels camera. While I'm very eager for the iPad Mini 5 to launch, I've heard that the the tab could be renamed as Apple iPad Mini Pro. Is this true? Apple iPad Mini 5 Wishlist

    ReplyDelete