Attention LinkedIn users: Don't set your expectations too high for the LinkedIn iPad app. In fact, keep them quite low, because that's the only way to find value in the few interesting features it does offer, and not drown out the positives with laments of everything it should have or do, yet doesn't.
The free app itself isn't half bad, but in light of what the full website offers, the mobile version falls yards short of delivering on users' expectations. Can you use the app to look up information about people? Yes! Does it show status updates from colleagues, acquaintances, and businesses that you follow? Absolutely! But try to look for jobs – one of the most important uses of LinkedIn – and nary a posting you'll find.
You also can't interact much, aside from posting status updates, commenting on other people's updates, and looking through your inbox. Put aside any expectations of searching for jobs, endorsing your colleague's skills, or penning thoughtful invitations to connect with new people.
I don't say any of this lightly either. The full LinkedIn website is excellent, and everyone over the age of 20 should use LinkedIn. But not everyone with an iPad needs the LinkedIn iPad app.
However, if you look at it not as the iPad app version of LinkedIn, but instead as an app that leverages your LinkedIn account and connects it to your iOS calendar, then it's a neat little tool. Perhaps it should have been branded with a different name, like "LinkedIn Appointments," or "Before You Meet," or some such variant.
The interface styling looks right. It uses a smart and contemporary colour scheme as well as appropriately sized text, thumbnail images, and buttons. Swiping and button pushing, however, isn't as smooth as the outer appearance might suggest. In testing the LinkedIn iPad app, I never felt that it was intuitive. I'd swipe a panel left or right and wonder what might be behind it, rather than feel certain that I knew. iPad apps shouldn't surprise you in this way. They should make it easy to figure out how to access information you want, or to complete a task. LinkedIn relies too much on guesswork just to navigate the app.
The LinkedIn iPad app features three primary areas when you first download it and launch it: All Updates, You, and Messages. Anyone familiar with LinkedIn will immediately spot what's lacking here, namely job postings.
The App Updates area essentially displays, in digital magazine form, various updates from the people and businesses you follow. When your contacts link to articles, the LinkedIn app shows a nice preview of the piece and the first paragraph or two (dependent on space), then provides a link to the original article. You can add comments to updates from the LinkedIn app, which I appreciated, especially in light of the fact that other interactive abilities in the app are limited.
The You section shows your profile, but you can't edit it at all. Again, any current LinkedIn user will be sorely disappointed by what's missing here. It's a little beyond me why LinkedIn would have an iPad app at all if users can't promote themselves effectively. That's a huge and crucial component of the service.
If you swipe through the You pages, you'll see your profile, and then a scrolling list of people separated into a few categories, such as "Who's viewed your profile" and "People you may know." From here, you can look at profiles of people with whom you're not currently connected, but you can't craft a personal invitation to link to one another, as you can on the full site. If you send an invitation to connect from the app, you're stuck with a generic and rather impersonal canned message.
The last section, Messages, shows a summary of your inbox and recent activity as regards making new connections. Again, you can select any person to open their profile and read more about them, but other interactions are limited to swapping messages – there's no endorsing their skills, nor writing a glowing review of their work.
The app does have one feature that makes it special: The ability to connect to your calendar and automatically display information about people before you meet with them. It works by allowing LinkedIn access to your iOS calendar, and by looking for matches among attendee names in meetings and your LinkedIn network. If you don't want to connect the service to your calendar, you can look up people manually prior to meeting them using the app's search bar, which works as advertised.
I’d have looked upon the LinkedIn iPad app more favourably had it simply come with a different name. What it does do – let you search your network, read up on your contacts, and connect to deep information about people with whom you have scheduled meetings – makes it a worthwhile app to have, but doesn't make up for the fact that it lacks several key features of the site. If you really want to use LinkedIn on your iPad, type linkedin.com into Safari's address bar, and then close the ad recommending you download the app.