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AP Mobile for iPhone still a dog for many

Mel Martin

The AP Mobile app from the Associated Press was much admired when the iPhone first came out. It was quick and reliable, and at the time, it was one of the few dedicated news apps. Now, after a few revisions and updates which didn't go so well, AP Mobile is still a popular download, but for many, that's where the popularity ends.

The newest version, released in June, supports 'push' updates, so even if you are not in the app you get an alert with breaking news updates. It seems to work well, although sometimes I would quibble with the editorial choices. It can be turned off, but it would be better if it could be customized -- only domestic news, or only sports bulletins, etc. By comparison, the Twitter-based Breaking News On newswire now also offers a BNO iPhone app that supports push notifications and some advanced filtering capability; it's $1.99 + $0.99/month to maintain the full filtering toolset.

My main complaints about the AP app are still there. It remains buggy, which often manifests itself in crashes or slowness. One problem is that when you first bring it up, the last stories it loaded are seen on screen. You might want to look at one and then the update takes place, snatching the story away from you into news heaven. Yes, you could probably scroll down to find it, but it is a disconcerting way for an app to work.

The worst problem is the use of screen real estate. AP is now selling ads on the app. Then they have a large front page panel with links to photos and videos. Those interface elements take about 40% of the screen space. Even when you do select a story, it often has a picture and ad associated with it, taking up about half the screen.

It's just not reader friendly to do it that way. How about giving me an option to see or not see the pictures? How about skipping the star symbols that accompany each story -- what the heck are those for anyway? Are news stories evolving into some kind of poll now where we can rate them? AP has taken great pains to provide a way for me to rate stories, but frankly I can't see the point. If I'm interested in a story, I'll read it. If I'm not, I'll skip it. Why do I care what other people thought of the story? Absent any specific comments, which aren't allowed, the ratings make no sense.

In some ways, AP seems to have lost their way with this app. It's been out in this latest version for a couple of months, and the app store ratings are dismal. I love news, and I love reading the news. Why has the AP made it so difficult to do just that?

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