AP News for iPad a missed opportunity

Mel Martin
M. Martin|04.30.10

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AP News for iPad a missed opportunity
Having made most of my living in the news business, I'm pretty much a news junkie. As a result, I've loaded my iPad up with a lot of news applications so I can keep up throughout the day.

I'd taken some pretty strong issue with the failings of the AP News app for the iPhone, but the iPad version hits a new low in design and function.

Let's start at the beginning. When you launch the app, you are presented with a screen that has little strips of news on what appears to be a cloth background. Each strip is a story. You can get about six of these strips on the iPad screen. That's pretty silly, since the screen is so large and the strips are so small. You would think the people that designed this app would use the extra space for more content, but that isn't the case. The home screen also has a large window which is a gateway to AP photos, and another window that leads you to video. More about those later.


When you click on a story, it expands, but again, doesn't use the full screen space. There is a sidebar that lets you select a story to send as email, send it to Twitter or Facebook, or enlarge the fonts. You can also save the story locally.

There is also a ridiculous feature that lets you rate the story. This feature is also in the iPhone version. I said it then, and I'll say it now: What the heck do I care how someone else rated a story? I'm going to read what I am interested in, not a bunch of other people. This is a baffling decision by the AP, and is, I guess, some misguided attempt to be "hip."

If you use the app, you'll often see the same story is listed more than once. It is exactly the same story, with the same text and transmit time. You'd think the software would be smart enough to stop two identical stories from appearing on the same page, but it amounts to another case of bad decisions and another waste of screen space.

Let's move on, quickly, to the photo feed. The AP is a world photo leader in photography, with a lot of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos to be proud of. In the app you click on a picture and you guessed it. It doesn't come up full screen. It enlarges a bit, but is still pretty small. The pictures can also be mailed, Twittered and sent to Facebook.

How about the video feature? Well, it works, but that's about it. The video window is very small, and each video starts up with an ad. The same ad. Over and over, for each video you watch. Today it was an ad for men's deodorant. If it wouldn't ruin the iPad and void my warranty, I'd spray it all over this app.

It's hard to understand what the AP is thinking. I want to get the news. I have an iPad because the larger screen appeals to me. Games and photos, look great on this device. This app fails to use the extra screen space at every opportunity.

A few other items: This app frequently crashes on launch. It's already had one update, but the crashes continue. More than once it has lost the news category choices I've made, and just has the default categories. Selecting your own categories is a festival of obfuscation. It isn't obvious that you have to drag and drop the categories to a list. There is no onscreen guidance or help of any kind.

There is an option for local news. I set it to my home town, and I got a smattering of fairly stale news from my local paper. The app also displays my local forecast and current temperature on the main page. You can have multiple locations set, but when I switched to another, I did not get weather from that location. When I deleted my original location, it still insisted on giving me the weather for Arizona, instead of the new location.

In the final analysis, this app is a train wreck. The AP is among the biggest and finest news operations in the world. They could have done this right. I'm taking it off my iPad to join the legion of rejected apps that don't belong on it.

For a look at news done right, check the Editor's Choice app from the New York Times, The BBC News app, the USA Today app, or the the News Pro app from Thomson Reuters. All these apps are superior to the AP News app in design and function.

Is my review too harsh? I don't think so. I just read the comments on AP News at the app store. It's pretty ugly over there.

The Associated Press can do better than this. I hope they will. It's time to replace the team that designed this and let the next version go to programmers who actually read the news. Now that's a concept.

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