Consumer Reports has kind of a spotty reputation with Apple fans. They've liked most Mac desktops and laptops, but the magazine famously dissed the AT&T iPhone 4 and, just last week, trashed the Verizon iPhone 4 as well.
Back in September of 2010, Consumer Reports put out a helpful, but buggy, free app for the iPhone. They then killed that app so you'd have to buy the $10.00 Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper app from them instead. Now, Consumer Reports has released the Consumer Reports Digital Edition for iPad. This is a free "Preview Edition," and that's what I took a look at today.
First off, this is a big honking download -- 126 MB. The App Store fools you by saying that the size is only 1.1 MB, but that download is just a shell app for downloading the actual content. The content doesn't download in the background, which is another black mark. Do not do this over 3G; if you try to download this thing over a mobile connection, you'll spend a lot of time looking at a slow-moving progress bar.
Basically, I'd describe the app as a PDF. It doesn't really use any of the iPad tech to make the content any more compelling. Think of it basically as an issue of Consumer Reports, although it's not clear if digital subscribers will get the full content of the printed magazine or a subset of content. There is nothing interactive about the preview edition, other than a couple of videos.
Navigation is a bit confusing, and the app uses some non-standard icons for moving around. When you go back to the home page -- if you can figure out how to do it -- the app reports that it is "updating library," but it doesn't seem to actually change anything. Future issues will be in-app purchases. In terms of content, if you're familiar with Consumer Reports, you know what you'll get. The information is comprehensive, and it's arranged just like the printed version.
Sadly, Consumer Reports gives us no idea how much subscriptions will cost. Will they be the same as a print subscription? Will people who subscribe to the print edition get the Digital Edition for free? How much content will be in each issue -- the same as the printed issue, or will the content be enhanced? These are the kinds of things Consumer Reports criticizes in other products, so I think it's fair to point out these failings in their own app. The Digital Edition for iPad might get better, of course, but as a preview of what Consumer Reports can do, I'd say this app is not yet recommended.