Developer: Uptime App Ltd.
Size: 40 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Many of us are existing on a steady source of online video content right now, for news and education as well as entertainment. But while YouTube and Facebook can turn up their share of worthwhile gems, there’s still a fair amount of nonsense to wade through.
Uptime is a new curated video app that surfaces brief but carefully selected and broadly educational content. It also creates its own material, calling upon a shifting crew of experts, authors, journalists and professors to shoot simple straight-to-camera snippets on specific topics.
The subject material is commendably varied, running the gamut from the science of sourdough bread (particularly apt at this time) to whether Jedi can be considered a true religion.
While brevity is one of the app’s strengths – you’re never going to be expected to sit through a 50-minute lecture on any of its subjects – it can also be a weakness. We quickly found ourselves skipping between multiple subjects, but only really coming away with a surface-level understanding of a few of them.
Some of the videos have been well crafted, scripted, and shot to make sure you extract the maximum amount of value from their limited run time. But others are simply talking heads rambling into a grainy webcam, which can be both distracting and inefficient.
Of course, given that a lot of the fresh content will probably have been shot during lockdown conditions, the developer (and their experts) deserves a pass here. And if any of these tasters serve as an entry point to further reading and discovery, then they’ve arguably done their job.
At the heart of the Uptime experience is the developer’s Spark system, which is a neat bookmark system – albeit one that’s not quite as visionary as its developers would have you believe.
Just double-tap anywhere on the screen while a video is playing, and you’ll get a little rumble and the appearance of the app’s asterisk-like logo where you tapped. Head into your personal tab and the Your Sparks section, and you’ll be able to see a list of all the videos and sparks that you’ve added. Tap on any of these to jump back to that point.
Helpfully, the video will have rewound a few seconds, which generally serves to preserve the whole line or point that made you tap in the first place.
While the structure is there, Uptime’s success will depend on its being able to continue to provide interesting, unique video content that people want to watch – and to improve the production quality of that content. It’s competing with some formidably large and established content providers. But at the very least, it could be just the kind of lightly educational distraction we all need right now.