Review: The Ted Talks app brings tons of video lectures to iOS
At a Glance
Ted Talks—a collection of short video lectures that has a huge online audience—have been around long enough that the parodies can sometimes seem fresher. The Onion and last year’s blockbuster movie Prometheus have both created riffs on the Ted formula that are, by turns, wickedly funny and a bit scary. Even so, the series remains incredibly popular, and that popularity will only be sustained and enhanced by the latest version of the free Ted app for iPhone and iPad.
When the app originally launched in 2010, it offered access to more than 700 videos. That number has since grown to more than 1000 videos—with new offerings added each day—featuring lectures on topics ranging from feminism to biology, from education to poverty, and from creativity to so much more.
There are several ways to sift through all of this content. One is to sit back, relax, and simply watch your way through the list of 60 or so “featured” talks the app offers, in a mix that churns often enough that you’ll never run out of fresh lectures. Another is to jump into the “All Talks” section and dig through the videos based either on the themes or tags.
My favorite, though, is to use the app’s “Inspire Me” function. You can choose the experience you hope to see demonstrated—ranging from “courageous” to “jaw dropping” to “beautiful”—then tell the app how long you want to sit and listen to the lectures. The app then conjures a playlist to match your mood and available time. You can bookmark both individual videos and video playlists, or you can download them to your device for later offline viewing.
Version 2.0 of this app clearly intends to reach the widest-possible audience. The videos are available with more than 90 languages offered as subtitle options, and the menu itself can be browsed in a user’s preferred language. Most—but not all—of the lectures are given in English, but the app’s developers clearly hope language won’t be a barrier to the exchange of ideas that the Ted lectures are meant to facilitate in the first place.
The latest version of the app says it offers faster and shorter downloads than previous versions of Ted. I can’t vouch for that, precisely, but one thing is true: The wait for videos to begin playing is barely noticeable, particularly if you’re connected to Wi-Fi instead of a cellular network connection.
Ted’s breadth of content might, in fact, be one of the only drawbacks to the app. There’s a lot of stuff here, and users interested in disease-fighting might not be quite so into discussions of creativity. It’s worth noting that much of the content available here is broken down into a number of different Ted Talks Podcasts available through your iPhone or iPod’s Podcasts app: There’s more than a dozen branded podcasts, ranging from “Society and Culture” to “News and Politics” to so much more; some users may decide this is their preferred method of consuming precisely the Ted content they favor.
If you like Ted Talks, there’s plenty of content here, and endless ways to consume it—and if English isn’t your first language, this may be the best way to search for and watch the lectures. Ted tries to make the world of ideas accessible to a larger audience; this app certainly helps that mission.