Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at the app for the world’s biggest online auction site.
The App: eBay
The Platform: iPhone, iPad & Android
How Much: Free
The Deal: eBay has long been synonymous with online auctions. Looking for a vintage Optimus Prime right fist? Check eBay. Trying to find that issue of Fangoria missing from your collection? Check eBay. Have buyer’s remorse for that trumpet you bought, which has never been removed from its case? Sell it on eBay.
An eBay freed from the chains of desktops (I don’t have to be at the computer at 4:27am when the auction for that weird thing no one else on earth except two other dudes care about is ending? Sign me up!) is a no-brainer. But how is it in reality?
Features: As far as I can tell, everything from eBay desktop has been ported over to eBay mobile. There’s buying and selling, of course, as well as your complete My eBay profile and options. Additional functionality includes push notifications for messages, ending auctions, re-listings and more.
The success of this app lies not so much in its breadth of features, but in their ease-of-use in a mobile format. And it is very successful in that regard. With searches, everything displays properly, and with all relevant info and photos (see above screen shot, taken after a search for “Wayne Chrebet jersey”). On item pages, everything is condensed into smart menus (Description, Item Specifics, Bidding Activity, etc.), allowing the page to be presented cleanly and clearly. At the bottom of the screen are three large buttons, really representing the core of eBay: Place Bid, Sell one like this, and Share this item. It makes browsing and bidding a really pleasant experience.
What’s Missing: Truthfully, not much. Even re-listing items (I’m trying to get rid of an MST3K Crow statue, if anyone’s interested) is a breeze. If anything, the way messages are handled is a little clunky; it seems as if the desktop message is displayed on the mobile screen, and options for replying are limited. But that’s a nitpick.
Overall: One of the best mainstream apps available, and one of the best desktop-to-mobile adaptations I’ve ever seen. I was continually amazed at just how much functionality is packed in here, and the second nature feel of navigating through it all. Browsing item photos is startlingly easy, as you just scroll through them as you would the photos in your gallery; changing alert settings is actually easier than the desktop version. The presentation is simplified as much as possible without sacrificing anything, and it’s a real accomplishment.
The only place the app falters slightly is in the typing interface; typing on a mobile phone is still a bit of a pain (at least, for me) and eBay didn’t find a way around that, so writing out a detailed description or message is a bit cumbersome. But I don’t really hold it against them. Ultimately, this doesn’t try and replicate the desktop experience; it re-imagines it and surpasses it.