A roundup of news applications for the iPad

A roundup of news applications for the iPad

I’ve had my iPad for a little over a month now, giving me plenty of time to pore through a number of news applications. Some are impressive examples of technology fused with design and creativity … others, not so much.

There are several different approaches for presenting news on the iPad. Some publishers have chosen to focus on the constant flow of updated information, while others have attempted to present information as more of a static package. While both have unique advantages and disadvantages, it’s clear that no one model has emerged as a standard format.

Here is a rundown of six different types of newspaper apps currently available for the iPad:

1. Newspaper Apps


If there is one industry that needs to hit it out of the park with their iPad apps, it’s newspapers. Given a brand new platform with seemingly limitless potential for creativity and innovation, many newspapers have played it disappointingly safe. Most of the apps available look like a hybrid between a traditional newspaper design and a website. And the sad truth is that the final result isn’t better than either.

The USA Today app is by far the most impressive offering in this category. The design is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate.

USA Today


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Financial Times


Cost: FREE (Until July 31, 2010)
iTunes Rating: 3 out of 5

NYT Editor’s Choice


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Wall Street Journal


Cost: FREE to download, $17.29 / Month for full access
iTunes Rating: 2 out of 5

2. News Apps


News organizations that weren’t bound by traditional print design standards have managed to do a much better job of exploring the iPad’s capabilities. These applications have clearly set out to offer a more comprehensive solution for digital media convergence. The main landing pages are far more intuitive, making it much easier to get an overview of the available content.

BBC News


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 3 out of 5

NPR


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 3 out of 5

Reuters


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 3 out of 5

3. News Magazines


Magazine publishers have focused on serving up each issue as a self-contained package with a fixed amount of content. The pages look similar to a PDF document with the occasional embedded video clip or interactive element. This gives the publishers a lot more play with design, however the result isn’t much of a departure from their print editions.

One major bone of contention amongst iPad users has been the pricing strategy for magazine apps. With the going rate pegged at $4.99 per issue (without the option to subscribe at a reduced rate), it’s no surprise that readers are experiencing a bit of sticker shock.

Newsweek


Cost: $2.99 / Issue
iTunes Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Time


Cost: $4.99 / Issue
iTunes Rating: 1.5 out of 5

4. News Photography Apps


For a quick overview of what’s happening in the world, these apps are great. They may not be packed with in-depth analysis, but their simplified approach to communicating events is easy to digest, and takes full advantage of the iPads crystal-clear screen.

Guardian Eyewitness


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 3.5 out of 5

NY Post Pix


Cost: FREE
iTunes Rating: 2.5 out of 5

5. Feed Readers


These apps work by collecting RSS feeds from your favourite websites. You can pick a choose what sites you’d like to draw content from, and The Early Edition app even allows you to create separate sections to better organize your feeds. One of the biggest benefits to this type of news app is that the content is cached every time you open it. You have full access to all of the articles even if you aren’t online. (Really handy for those who didn’t opt for the 3G model)

The Early Edition


Cost: $4.99
iTunes Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Pulse


Cost: $3.99
iTunes Rating: 4 out of 5

6. Digital Newsstand


This app allows you to download digital copies of newspapers from around the world. There are over 1,500 publications to choose from, but ultimately you are getting little more than a PDF version of the paper. They are still in their original size, which makes reading a bit of a challenge. To navigate through a standard broadsheet you need to constantly scroll and zoom in and out to make it readable.

Press Reader


Cost: FREE to download, $0.99 / issue
iTunes Rating: 3 out of 5

It’s no stretch to say that news app design is still in its infancy. At this point it’s up to publishers to analyze the way readers are interacting with the device and adapt accordingly.

While there is certainly room for improvement, the raw potential that the iPad offers news industry is nothing to scoff at. With new applications rolling out every day, I have no doubt that they will only get better with time.

About the Author

Matthew French

Design Editor for The Globe and Mail

Comments
Mike Hills  13 Aug 2010

Hi Matthew – thanks for the round-up. Just wanted to point out that The Times (of London) has an iPad app as well. Disclaimer: I work on it. It’s not free, but it is pretty. You can see examples of the infographics included in it here: http://bit.ly/tt-ipad-graphics and watch a video run-down of it here: http://bit.ly/tt-ipad-video. And here’s the iTunes link: http://bit.ly/tt-ipad-itunes. Let me know if you have any feedback!

Matthew C. French  20 Aug 2010

Hey Mike,

You’re absolutely right, that is pretty! I think you’ve done an incredible job pushing forward the untamed frontier of news application design. In the true spirit of what tablet devices are all about, the readability and accessibility of your infographics are just as commendable as their clean design aesthetic. Well Done. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

Updated Resources « The Collegiate Angle  19 Mar 2011

[...] Matt French’s review of iPad applications. There’s still a lot to be wanted in these applications, but do I see a hint of hope in this platform? =) [...]

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