So a few days ago I blogged about the initial reaction to the Guardian’s iPad app when they announced it on Monday. Yesterday it finally hit the app store, and after several hours of stress-inducing load times, I’d upgraded my iPad to iOS 5 which meant that I could download the app.
The app features on Newsstand, Apple’s new system whereby you can see all your magazine and newspaper subscriptions in one place. So far mine is rather sparsely populated with the New Yorker and the Guardian, but it’s nice to know that there’s a dedicated place for my more long form reading.
I think that’s also the key here – it doesn’t make sense for me to put the New Yorker in the same “news” folder as Huff Post, Sky News and Flipboard – it’s a different reading experience, and so is the Guardian.
Anyway once you open up the app you’re given a free trial – mine doesn’t expire until 13 January next year, which gives you more than enough time to work out whether you like it or not and are likely to stump up the £9.99 monthly subscription fee.
It’s an issue based app, which has drawn some criticism, owing to the somewhat static nature of the app. However, I’m inclined to think that it’s a shrewd move by the Guardian, and one which shows that they’re very savvy when it comes to working across multiple platforms. Martin Belam also hinted at integrating story updates in a comment on my post earlier this week.
Data shows that the majority of tablet use is in front of a television or in bed – things that happen primarily in the evening after a day of work. This echoed Alan Rusbridger’s sentiment when he spoke about the Guardian’s printed output, saying that he viewed it as more Newsnight than News at Ten. So why not continue that kind of thinking with the iPad?
Well, on starting up you’re presented with a crisply designed homescreen that provides a quick look at all the sections. You can scroll through the top bar independently to skip to a specific section, or browse down the front page if you’re after a more general read.
On opening the comment section, the app presents you with a few commentators’ mugshots as well as the cartoon of the day. To my eye, it’s far more attractive than the web version of Comment is Free, and feels right on an iPad. Tapping on a header takes you into the article, which is again a clean and uncluttered affair that screams “long read” at you.
Amazon’s Kindle is often the favoured device for voracious readers, but if executed well iPad apps can hold their own. From the article page you can share via email, Facebook and Twitter, taking advantage of the new iOS 5 functionality.
Cycling through the various sections of the app, you get the sense that each one has been tailored for its content. The Arts page, for example, is very strong on visuals with some arresting images, while others are more pared down.
Overall the app is a joy to use- and that’s what you want from a news app, something that compels you to pick it up each evening because you know the content is going to be presented elegantly and with attention to detail.
If I had one quibble it would be that in order to access the video section of the Guardian you have to visit the “on the website” category, which redirects to guardian.co.uk. It’s a shame that the iPad’s functionality as a mobile video viewer hasn’t been taken advantage of, but that’s a minor issue.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the app could be one of those hallowed few that become strongly associated with the device itself. Simply put, it should make you want to buy an iPad after using it. So give it a go, and let me know what you think.
UPDATE: Some discussion on Twitter this weekend revealed that at the moment the Guardian have decided not to include their weekend edition or the Observer in the app.
I was made aware of this by Patrick Smith, who opined that the Times app launched in May 2010 with all its sections. He was swiftly corrected, but the point remains that it feels a bit lacklustre that the Guardian haven’t included weekend editions from the outset – it would follow with the more contemplative attitude of the app which is suited to weekend reading.