We’re all being told that mobile is the next big thing for news, but what does it mean to have a good mobile news application? Jonathan Stray reports.
Just as an online news site is a lot more than a newspaper online, a mobile news application is a lot more than news stories on a small screen. The better iPhone news apps integrate multimedia, social features, personalization, and push notifications.
Not all apps get even the basics right. But a few are pushing the boundaries of what mobile news can be, with innovative new features such as info-graphic displays of hot stories, or integrated playlists for multimedia.
Here is my roundup of 14 iPhone news offerings. I’ve included many of the major publishers, some lesser known applications, and a few duds for comparison.
The New York Times Company
The Times doesn’t do anything new with this application, but they do everything fairly well.
The app is designed around a vertical list stories, with a headline, lede, and photo thumbnail for each. Stories are organized into standard news sections, plus the alway interesting “Most Popular.” Banner ads sometimes appear at the bottom, plus occasional interstitial ads when appear when you select a story.
The focus of the news is of course American. There’s no personalization of news content based either on interest or location, which may well prove to be a standard feature for mobile news applications. Fortunately, the app includes a search function, though it only seems to go a few days back.
Downloaded articles are available when the device is offline, which is a useful feature. Favorites stories can be saved, or shared via email, text message, Twitter, and Facebook.
The UI has a few quirks. The “downloading news” progress bar is expected, but the sometimes equally long “processing news” phase makes me wonder what the app is doing. The photos in a story very sensibly download after the text, but the scroll position jumps when the photo appears,which is hugely annoying.
There’s little innovation or differentiation here, but the experience is smooth.