This past week has been another one of those in which I’m short on time and long on things to do. I’m currently working on a couple of new cigar reviews, but I simply haven’t have a chance to sit down and record a video. Since Jerry just posted a Week in Smoke yesterday, I decided to change things up a bit and do another cigar-related app review. This week I’m covering CRA for iOS.
With the impending FDA action casting an ominous shadow over the premium cigar industry, it’s important that we as consumers and voters stay informed about political developments that may severely impact our ability to keep smoking our favorite stogies. As part of their mission to fight for the freedom to enjoy cigars, Cigar Rights of America has developed the CRA app for iOS (also available for Android). Being a card-carrying member of the CRA, I decided to spend some time checking out this app to see if it deserves a coveted spot on my iPhone home screen.
CRA App by the numbers…
Developer: Cigar Rights of America (powered by Mobile Roadie)
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; requires iOS 4.0 or later
Updated: Nov. 19, 2011 (version 4.6.1)
Source: free download
App Store: iTunes Link
Upon launching the app, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it immediately starts streaming some CRA-related audio podcasts from DogWatch Cigar Radio and Stogie Fresh 5. This is a pretty cool feature, but the episodes are a bit dated (circa 2009-2010), and there are only three of them, so they get a bit stale after you’ve been through the rotation once or twice. It would be great if, after playing the episodes focusing on CRA, the app would start streaming the most recent content from these podcasts.
The Home tab simply displays the CRA logo and allows you to control the streaming podcasts.
The News tab brings up a collection of brief articles put out by the individual state clubs, as well as a Twitter feed divided into official CRA tweets and those that mention @CigarRights.
There’s a “Join CRA” tab, but clicking on that simply displays a message to go to the Cigar Rights of America website to sign up. Membership renewal through the app is supposedly coming soon.
The Locations tab allows you to search for CRA-supporting businesses nation-wide.
Clicking on the “More” tab brings up quite a few additional interesting features. Under “CRA Community,” there’s a Facebook-like “Wall” where users can post comments & upload photos. The “CRA Team” features profiles of CRA directors and the executive team. Additional multimedia files are available here, along with a link to the CRA store. There’s even a “Top Users” section where people using the app can earn “points” via their activity (posting, etc.), and point totals are displayed in a sort of leader board not unlike a gamer achievements system.
Throughout the app, you’re able to like and share (via Twitter, Facebook, etc.) various content, and you can also add certain items to a list of favorites, as well as leave comments. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to “unlike” items to which you’ve already given the “thumbs-up.” Just to clarify, I don’t actually support the possible smoking ban being discussed by the Shenandoah, TX city council, haha.
The CRA app is heavily reliant on the data and content that it pulls down from the server, so in order to get the full experience, you’re going to want to make sure you have a solid network signal. In fact, the CRA app has no offline mode at all, so don’t expect to be able to catch up on the latest legislative action during a cross-country flight or while camping out in the remote wilderness. If you try to launch it without an Internet connection, you’re greeting with the following error message, and are unable to access any of the app’s features:
This CRA offering feels a bit more polished than the previous cigar-related apps that I’ve reviewed (see Cigar Smoker & Cigar Boss), but there’s always room for improvement. That’s one of the great things about mobile app stores: you can always look forward to free updates that usually make an already good user experience even better. And although I haven’t used it on a daily basis after first checking it out, the CRA app has earned a spot in the “Cigars” folder on my iPhone home screen:
Charlie has been enjoying cigars since 2000 and generally prefers a medium-bodied, full-flavored smoke. A USAF vet, he is currently pursuing a PhD in computer science, focusing on artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. Originally from Connecticut and now residing in Delaware, Charlie is also a fan of football, science fiction, political philosophy, and single malt scotch. You can contact Charlie on Twitter @greenbacker