I’m a big fan of the Telegraph and Sky news iPhone apps, both offer a great breadth of coverage for free. But they have a new rival in the guide of the Guardian’s new paid-for app (asking price £2.39) which launched today.
Before commenting on the app itself I want to say a few words in support of the Guardian’s decision to charge. Software development, like news gathering, costs money and if we want high quality apps or news it’s clear they need to be paid for.
On the other hand, the Guardian’s FAQ says:
“We are committing to offering a core level of service for the one-off charge but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of charging for extra functionality at some point in the future.”
I think Guardian bosses need to think carefully about that. There’s a real risk of alienating people who shell out now only to find themselves asked to pay again when updates start including features they’re locked out from.
One of the most striking things about the app is that it looks like the main Guardian website, giving if a nice, familiar feeling from the outset.
The user can control which story categories appear on the home page as well as the number of items from each category. It’s a useful inclusion which allows users readers to have a sense of ownership over the app – important given this is a paid-for offering.
A ‘more’ button in the app’s navigation panel allows access to all categories so access to less favoured news sections is never more than two clicks away.
There’s also the ability to set articles as favourites which can then be accessed from a Favourites link in the nav area, this is a great inclusion, the nature of mobile reading means phones have to be switched off, used for calls or put away on a regular basis. The inclusion of favourites means you can easily go back to any article you’ve to leave.
Another nice feature is the ability to download content for offline reading later. Potentially very useful if you’re on a train or tube.
Despite my praise for the app it’s disappointingly impossible to read or post comments so reading blog-based content is a rather unfulfilling experience.
There’s also no video content in this version although the Guardian’s podcasts are included. For me video content is a ‘nice to have but not important’ feature but as both the Sky and Telegraph apps include video it’s a strange omission, especially consider the Guardian are hoping o persuade readers to pay for an app others give away for free.
Video and comment no-shows aside, this is still a great app and it’ll be interesting to see how well it sells, especially given the wider debate about newspaper sites introducing paywalls.
PS: the Guardian has a video showcase of the app, probably required viewing for anyone thinking of buying it.