April 6, 2015 Last Updated 10:21 am

The iPad and the NYT app for iPad celebrate fifth anniversary

But neither the iPad, nor the NYT app for the new digital device, have evolved as hoped since their launch in April of 2010

This just passed Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the launch of the original iPad, and with it, some of the very first media apps launched for the new device.

On Saturday, April 3, thousands of early iPad buyers waited anxiously for the UPS truck to pull up to their residence to deliver the first iPads. TNM even did the obligatory unboxing story, complete with poorly taken shots of the iPad and the packaging. Even then, I sensed that whatever excitement I felt about the iPad had more to do with the media apps that could be developed for the device rather than the device itself. I was only partially right about that.

While Apple has a tendency to release new devices then radically improve them over time, the iPad has been a disappointment. The first generation iPad was perfectly fine digital device from its start, but most owners felt it was underpowered and with only the minimum necessary amount of storage. With my own first iPad I made sure to upgrade the storage, but it never was enough, and Apple’s decision to continue to keep storage levels near where they were in 2010 is one of the device’s biggest faults.

Today’s iPad is pretty much what was released in 2010. Oh sure, fanboys will point to the devices new chips and other internal upgrades – but those updates were to be expected. What buyers have discovered through the years is that Apple really has not given them good reasons to upgrade their devices, offering new features that make buying a new model essential. Apple has been obsessed with things owners are not: thinness, for instance.


NYT’s iPad apps, 2010 at left, 2015 at right


Likewise, the NYT’s app for iPad has not evolved much. First launched on April 1 and originally called NYT Editor’s Choice, the app was not a true tablet version of the either the print newspaper or the paper’s website – and Steve Jobs was said to be disappointed in the app.

“Enjoy the award-winning journalism of The New York Times with the unique functionality and navigation of the iPad,” the app description said five years ago. “The Editors’ Choice application offers a limited selection of news, opinion and features that are automatically updated to your device.”

My own story on the app, once I actually had an iPad to view it on, was mixed.

“There is no question that the Times app is gorgeous to look at — but even Talking New Media looks great on an iPad!” I said, though the old Blogspot site was probably not “gorgeous”.

“But the Times app gives you the impression that this is an interim solution,” I wrote in 2010. “By posting a free app that gives readers access to some content, they may be paving the way for a paid app, or a paid subscription app.”

I was, of course, right. Eventually the app would be put behind a paywall once the NYT built its web paywall. Over the five years the iPad app has existed more content has been added to the app, but little else has been done to change its basic design and function. It is what it is: another way to access the content of the Times, presented as a tablet alternative to a website that itself functions just fine on the iPad. In other words, it still, after five years, is not a native tablet app, one conceived of as for a tablet right from the beginning.


NYT website at left, app at right


Through the past five years there have, of course, been updates to the original iPad app: it was moved into the Newsstand once Apple launched that feature, it was put behind the paywall, more content and social sharing added. The app is currently on version 3.8, indicative of the number of updates issued.

But I don’t subscribe to the app, and I know few that do. A subscription to the web and maybe the iPhone app is certainly sufficient. Five years after the launch of the original iPad, The New York Times Company has only four iPad apps with probably its most original one being the fairly new NYT Cooking app.

Meanwhile, the paper continues to suffer a talent drain – one made up for, admittedly, with new hires. But the reason for the drain can be traced to the paper’s reluctance to launch new brands, either for its many sections, or for individual journalists. At the NYT there is only one brand, The New York Times itself. And until that changes, it is unlikely that anything dramatically new in concept will be released for iPad owners.

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