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Romney promises to announce VP choice via mobile app

'We'll just need a little bit of information first'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has yet to announce his choice for vice president, but when he does, he says smartphone users will be the first to hear about it.

On Tuesday, Romney's official campaign website unveiled Mitt's VP, an app that promises to send a push alert to Android and iOS devices as soon as the candidate declares his running mate.

"There's no telling when Mitt will choose his VP," reads a message on the site. "But when he does, be the first to find out with Mitt's VP app. Share with your friends and earn exclusive campaign gear."

The app is fairly simple. In addition to the "VP" button that will display the eventual nominee's name, it includes buttons to connect with the Romney campaign via Facebook, Twitter, and the campaign's own MyMitt organization, plus a button for donations.

Despite its limited UI, however, Mitt's VP has already set tongues wagging. Shortly after it was announced, Florida senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter to encourage supporters to download the app, adding fuel to speculation that he may be Romney's front runner:

But whether Romney's voter base will respond well to the app is another matter. In a recent study, 49 per cent of smartphone users surveyed said that if the election were held today, they would vote for Obama over Romney. Only retired smartphone owners leaned the other way.

And then there's the problem that the app itself seems a little dodgy. Among early reviews, some commenters complained that the app crashes, while others say it requires access to too many permissions on their devices, including GPS tracking.

What's more, at 12MB on Android and a whopping 25MB on iOS, it's a bigger download than Angry Birds, and far less fun. What could such a simplistic app be doing that requires so much memory?

"Chuck," a reviewer from the Google Play store, thinks he might know:

Mitt may have my vote, but this app blows. Not only does it require Name and Email (acceptable), but also Street Address, Zip and Phone Number (not even close to acceptable) ... you can't opt out of sharing this information. On top of that, registration FAILS and HANGS. Sorry, Mitt ... I just don't care enough to put up with this garbage.

It seems that the Mitt's VP app may actually be less about giving smartphone users early notice of Romney's VP choice and more about collecting data for the campaign's all-important voter information databases.

That would hardly be a surprise for a political campaign, though. And lest you think the Republicans have a monopoly on using mobile apps to mobilize voters, El Reg observes that the Obama campaign also released its own iOS app on Tuesday. The Android version, it says, is coming soon - but there's no word on a Windows Phone version however. ®

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