More screen real estate to play with gives Mercedes C-class coupe iPad app the appearance edge over Hondas iPhone app for the Civic

More screen real estate to play with gives Mercedes C-class coupe iPad app the appearance edge over Honda's iPhone app for the Civic

Technology buff here's fingers were itching as soon as I read up about the new iPhone/iPad apps from Honda and Mercedes this week.

I've long been a fan of digital brochures - there's some great ones on the interweb these days; select a colour and onto the screen comes a spraygun to re-colour your dreammobile, that sort of thing - but now we supposedly are all smartphoned and iPadded, things are moving on to the next level; these new 'uns are but two of many already out there ready for your phone or tablet.

I'm relatively new to Apple, having long vowed to avoid the hype and stick to Nokia, but, thanks to a traitorous colleague kindly handing over his old iPhone 3GS after his upgrade to a 4 (with Siri) a few months ago, am now hooked, lined and sinkered and, almost daily, adding to the corporation's coffers via iTunes and the Apps store. I've also, purely for the kids' benefit and education, you understand, more recently added an iPad to the household gadget list and it was just too tempting not to reach for it, download and (briefly) try Merc's new C-class coupe app (designed for iPad) and the Honda (iPhone) before I got a get-back-to-work swat from the editor.

Talk about anything Apple to familiar users and the word 'simplicity' always comes up. And so it proves. Takes a jiffy to find both on their relative App Stores and minutes to download.

The Mercedes one fires up immediately with a nice opening graphic of the car and some music and all the menus are intuitive and nicely crafted. Every bit you need to know about the model line is in there somewhere and it's all cleanly presented. One of many nice tricks - the location device apparently sets the view of the weather through the virtual panoramic glass sunroof to actual local conditions - rain in my case today - and if you move the iPad up to look at the screen from underneath the view moves as if you were looking up out at the sky through the real thing. Nifty.

This sort of thing - and I only scratched the surface of what was on offer - moves the virtual 'brochure' on from the laptop/desktop thanks to the greater portability of the tablet or smartphone. And, of course, it's easy to configure a car, save it, march mit gadget into the local dealer, connect to his wi-fi or 3G, call it all up and start haggling. And he can use his to keep in contact with you before, during and after the sale.

Having got directions to the dealer from the app... There's the one glitch - I know where my local Mercedes shop is and it ain't where the app(s) would send me; about a half mile and one country road off. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to exploring more of this app after work...

Honda's Europe-wide Civic hatchback app is also good. Boot it up an it asks first if you have the printed brochure to hand because it will link to that via an installed QR code reader and, if not, opens a home screen offering interactive views of 'magic seats', interior 360 or aerodynamics and handling, and various other options. Movement works here, too, open the interior 360, and spin around in your chair holding the iPhone and it's like swivelling around in the actual car to see the full cabin panorama.

There's loads of other detail in there but, due much to the way smaller iPhone screen compared with the iPad, and correspondingly smaller 'buttons', it's not quite as much fun as the Merc app. Getting local dealer details is slightly clunky, not least because my iPhone GPS doesn't work at all this far indoors, but postcode entry brings 100% accurate location details and directions so kudos for that.

Summary: both informative, both fun, both v clever. Back in the day, as a car-mad kid, I had to trudge the streets and beg local dealer salesmen for brochures. Always assuming there's an iPad or iPhone in the house, today's car-nut kids - and adults - have access to wonderful technology like this I could only dream about. Due credit to the boffins who dreamt it all up and made it work.