Smokey Bear’s official app is close but no campfire

By Joseph Marks

November 27, 2012

This story is part of Nextgov’s Building Better Apps project.

Smokey Bear’s official app promises to tell you everything you need to know about how to safely build and put out a campfire, but it failed to light our reviewers up.

The major problem was that the app needed an Internet connection to display even basic information.

“That’s a little crazy if you think about the context where people would actually be using the app,” said Ted Chan, founder of “It’s for when you’re camping, right? So there’s not a good chance you’d be online or have a connection.”

The step-by-step directions for how to build a fire were also text heavy and looked as if they’d simply been imported from a webpage, said Yaron Oren, chief operating officer at iSpeech. People reading on a smartphone screen aren’t likely to have patience for that much text.

Despite these execution errors, our reviewers thought Smokey had a lot of potential.

Designers could easily separate out content that doesn’t need to be updated -- such as fire building instructions -- and offer that without an Internet connection, Chan said. Another easy fix, said Matt Thazhmon, chief executive of PowerInbox, would be to make those fire instructions more mobile-friendly and kid-friendly by adding pictures or cartoons.

Our reviewers’ grade: 2.3/5

By Joseph Marks

November 27, 2012