REVIEW: Apple’s first foray into original television – Planet of the Apps – crashes spectacularly
With a snappy title and the prestige of being Apple’s first original television series, Battle of the Apps has a lot riding on its shoulders. Unfortunately, the new series doesn’t deliver on its promise.
The concept of Battle of the Apps sounds like it would be a perfect first voyage into original content for Apple. Developers pitch app ideas to a panel of celebrity entrepreneurs, requesting guidance to prepare for another pitch in front of venture capitalists – with the aim of achieving funding. It’s a similar idea to Dragon’s Den, but specifically for apps.
However, a number of flaws hinder Battle of The Apps. The first is the talent involved. It’s very unclear as to why Apple have chosen to select the panel they have chosen, for none of Gwyneth Paltrow, will.i.am and Jessica Alba scream competence when it comes to the world of app development. Yes, they are all successful entrepreneurs, but their lack of specific expertise becomes pronounced when they are accompanied on the panel by the delightful Gary Vaynerchuck. Of the four celebrity castings, only Vaynerchuck looks at home on the programme – making knowledgeable comments and asking the important questions about pitches. For the most part, Paltrow, Alba and Will are left twiddling their thumbs in the background as Vaynerchuck performs the appropriate checks that an idea is viable.
What works about Dragon’s Den is that the panel of experts really is a panel of experts, not a table comprising of superstars who only have to attach their name to a product to see success. The whole process also feels rather repetitive when successful candidates return to the pitching room to ask for financial investment from a venture capital firm later in the episode. Could Battle of the Apps not begin with the venture capitalist pitch? The celebrity round doesn’t really add anything – and is mildly embarrassing for everyone involved.
There’s also a problem in that audiences always know what to expect on Battle of the Apps – yet another app – and the first episode contained absolutely no inventions of note. Any ideas sensible enough to attract investment are not exactly groundbreaking, an issue the contestants struggle repeatedly with. One developer pitches a dating app that only allows users to contact other users attending the same events as them, while another is an app that ensures users can alert their friends as to where they are at all times. They are apps we would possibly use, but they’re not exciting enough to watch a television show centred around.
There are some aspects of the show that work. I enjoyed the discussion of apps, and the use of footnotes to explain some of the more technical terms thrown about by developers and panellists. On a show focused on tech, it’s only natural for some jargon to go over the audience’s heads, but Battle of the Apps makes an effort to rectify this in the early stages. In addition, once the candidates move onto discussing their ideas with venture capitalists, the show takes a more interesting and decisive turn.
In summary, Battle of the Apps is more of a miss than a hit. The use of pointless celebrities adds little value to a show that seems to repeat itself. What we’d like to see is an interesting series on innovation, but everything about Battle of the Apps seems to distract from the show’s focus.