EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 262 - May 02, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

The iPad eBay Selling App: Fun & Easy, but No Heavy Lifting

By Julia Wilkinson

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You can't swing an obsolete disk drive from its cord without coming across a story about Apple's iPad, hailed in some quarters as everything from the savior of the free world to the death of the venerable institution of newsprint. With about 500,000 iPad sales to date, the demand for the notebook-sized computer was stronger than the company expected. eBay sellers, many of whom are always trying to keep current with the latest technology, may wonder, just what is this vaunted gadget going to mean for them?

In an increasingly app-centric world, with a recent count of some 185,000 third-party applications officially available on the App Store, and over 4 billion total downloads, these fun-sized icons are how many people are going to access the Internet.

One look at the eBay apps for the iPad, with its gorgeous, glossy screen and big, in-your-face images, shows it lives up to its hype visually. And the iPad has been touted as the new preferred way to consume media, be it a web page, book, movie, or other digital content. But while it introduces some cool new aspects to the selling experience, such as a helpful chart on the bottom of the search results screen for research, it is not the be-all end-all for sellers in terms of utility.

The eBay Selling app divides the selling experience into three options on its Home screen: "find similar items/Research," "create listing/Sell," and "check on your listings/Status."

One of my favorite things about the iPad Selling app is the Research feature, because when you bring up the completed listings and their prices, it gives you a histogram - a kind of chart on the bottom of the screen which shows you the relative distribution of the completed sales prices from low to high, as well as the average sales price. This is the kind of information you used to have to dig up from third-party research apps like Terapeak.

This gives you a good, visceral sense of the price range and distribution of prices for a type of item as a seller. It's also great to use as a buyer when trying to find bargains and to get a general sense of price spreads.

The glossy screen serves up about four images per screenful, and with a quick swipe of your finger you can scroll down to more results. Compare this to a laptop screen, where the default is to view eight results per screenful, and you don't see as many images at once. But it's easy and fun to scroll down and again, the histogram is very helpful.

Sell Function
The Sell function on the iPad eBay Selling app has the basic essentials: Title, Category, Adding photos, a description field, Auction start price, Buy It Now price, Payment method, Duration, Schedule, and Add US Shipping Service.

Typing in the fields is a pleasure with the iPad keypad, which is much like the iPhone keypad only bigger, making it so much easier to use. While I often hit the wrong virtual key with my fat fingers on the iPhone keypad, that was not a problem at all with the iPad. I am not crazy about how you have to toggle between letter and number mode on both iPhone and iPad keypads, however, though I understand they only want to use so much screen space for the keypad at once.

My least favorite thing about this app is the limited way you can integrate photos. You can take photos with your iPhone (assuming you have one), and if you sync it to iTunes, the iTunes system can integrate your photos for a listing. However, for many of the things I sell, I need good-quality close-ups taken with the digital macro setting, and as the iPad doesn't believe in a USB port, adding photos from one is not an option.

Also, while the iPhone camera I have is useful for many casual pictures, I find it's easy to get a blurry photo with the iPhone camera unless you are able to stay stock-still or steady your hand against a fixed object. But, for a quick and easy listing only needing a simple visual, the iPad is fine.

Checking Your Listings
Checking your listings has never been so fun as it is with the eBay iPad selling app (and regular iPad eBay app, for that matter). You can scroll through them easily, swiping your finger down the touch screen. My first glimpse of my Active Selling Items made me think, "Wow." The iPad screen seems much more about images than the eBay on the desktop, laptop or iPhone.

Although it seemed like I was doing more scrolling with the iPad to see my active listings than I would do with a desktop or laptop, I was surprised to find that the two big rows of eight items per screen was actually the same number of items I see in traditional format on a laptop screen, with the images all lined up in a single column and the listing data going across in rows.

My one beef with the Status feature is that I was not able to view a pending "Best Offer" one of my items had on it, as I could on my desktop and laptop. It did show a "Pending Best Offer" bar in green across the top of the listing when I clicked in to it, but there appeared to be no way to actually see the offer.

The Bottom Line
eBay sellers will likely enjoy using the eBay iPad app for research in the field, the extra screen real estate making it much easier to look up the cost of items out in the field, at, say, an estate sale or yard sale. And again, the histogram of the price spread at the bottom of the search results is a big boon for sellers doing research.

The app also makes quick checks of one's listings easy and fun.

But for the nitty-gritty of putting actual listings together, with multiple photos, close-ups, etc., the iPad eBay Selling pad will likely not be the first go-to option for sellers, at least in this incarnation of both the gadget and the app.

But, as anyone who uses computers knows, things are never static. In a few years, these handy notebook-sized devices may be the tool of choice for not only eBay sellers but computer users of all types.

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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